ETHNIC-BASED CINEMAGOING PRACTICES
Some notes on the work method employed in this paper
We have thus far examined the case of East Ham and its environs by focusing on this locality as a mosaic of “cultural clusters”, each of which is organized around a series of ethnic-based cultural practices. By way of a reminder, we may here note that Paper 4a concentrated on an examination of ethnic-based religious practices in the locality; Paper 4b concentrated on an examination of the locality’s ethnic-based eating habits; and Paper 4c concentrated on the predominant tastes pertaining to ethnic-based attire. In this Paper 4d [and which continues with Paper 4e], we shall be turning to practices related to ethnic-based cinemagoing in the locality of East Ham and its environs.
In attempting to examine cinemagoing in this locality and its environs, our work has been tentative and continually adjustive to the empirical data as we came to discover these along the way of research work. Sociological research findings already published – as also related analyses of the question of what is usually referred to as the Bollywood phenomenon in the UK – have also been employed to help us understand ethnic-based cinemagoing in the locality of East Ham. Ultimately, we came up with a work-plan that can more or less be summarized as follows:
- We commence this work with a simple but what we consider to be an absolutely important “methodological note”: having noticed a certain defective “methodological” approach employed in some of the sociological papers on the phenomenon of Bollywood, we briefly point to the implications of this and try to explain why this is not the manner in which sociologists ought to work, whatever their ideological persuasions [and these they do have].
- The phenomenon of Bollywood is very generally – not to say sketchily – introduced, but especially as it came to establish itself in the 1990’s. We also point to India’s regional movie industries and how these are closely related to the Bollywood phenomenon but may not easily be reduced to it.
- We then posit what may be considered to be the central question of this paper, and do so with a view to ultimately offering a tangible and verifiable answer to it – viz. is it accurate to assume that the phenomenon of Bollywood is indicative of what has been called “media globalization”? Is the latter not a myth?
- Specifically with respect to the phenomenon of Bollywood in the UK – and even more specifically as regards East Ham and its environs – we examine the emergence and establishment of the “independent”, Bollywood-specialist type of cinema. We also examine the emergence and establishment of the multiplex – and therefore not “independent” – type of cinema chain also engaged in the showing of Bollywood movies. The competitive relationship between these two types of cinemas is also briefly explored.
- We proceed to present East Ham’s own historic and “independent” Bollywood-specialist cinema – viz. the well-known Boleyn Cinema. And we further present Ilford’s chain cinema that has itself systematically engaged in the showing of Bollywood films – viz. the multiplex Cineworld Cinema. A brief reference is further made to East Ham’s historic Granada Cinema, which also had – for a certain span of time – itself catered to audiences watching Bollywood movies. Merely by way of an introduction to these three venues, we present some brief historical notes relating to their establishment and operation.
- Having introduced these three venues, we then concentrate on an examination of ethnic-based cinemagoing practices in the locality of East Ham and its environs – to do this, we begin by researching the case of the “independent” Boleyn Cinema. We discuss what types of movies have been shown in this theatre and the sentiments of locals regarding such shows. We further examine the “atmosphere” of this cinema and how such “atmosphere” relates to India and Indian culture. We discuss the types of audiences that frequent – or, rather, have frequented – the Boleyn and the role of the Indian family unit in forming such audiences. We also examine the condition of the venue in terms of its upkeep through the years and its operation. Finally, we investigate the question of the cinema’s ticket pricing policy.
- Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema, the multiplex chain cinema, is similarly researched.
- The empirical data we have collected on these two cinemas, as also various published research findings and analyses regarding the phenomenon of Bollywood in the UK, allow us to draw certain specific conclusions regarding the socio-cultural functions of venues such as that of the Boleyn Cinema or of the Cineworld Cinema. We shall attempt to show how these two cinemas have played a significant role in the ethnic-based cultural bonding of the community’s “cultural clusters”. We shall present examples of how such cultural bonding is materialized through the manner in which cinema audiences come to congregate and behave within the theatres.
- Apart from the manner of congregation, cultural bonding is also materialized through the discourse of the motion pictures being watched [literature on this issue shall be reviewed and evaluated]. To show how movie discourse bonds a “cultural cluster” or “clusters” within a community, we shall undertake an examination of a sample of Bollywood movies that have been shown in the Boleyn and Cineworld venues. This may allow us to consider a number of implications regarding the ideological content of Bollywood movies and the impact of such content with respect to the type of bonding that ensues.
- Given that Muslim settlers constitute a significant factor in the formation of the area’s “cultural clusters” [cf. Paper 4a regarding, inter alia, their numerical presence in the locality of East Ham], we shall need to consider the very special relationship between the Muslim worldview and the practice of cinemagoing.
- As is well known, the phenomenon of Bollywood is not merely restricted to motion picture production and cinemagoing – it has also generated a whole range of cultural by-products closely related, in one way or another, to this genre. One such by-product is “Bollywood dancing”, a practice that is quite popular amongst certain segments of East Ham’s “cultural clusters”. By way of an appendix to this paper, we shall therefore also present a number of findings pertaining to the practice of “Bollywood dancing” in the locality, and draw some tentative conclusions.
A general “methodological note”: how not to work
In 2006, Rajinder Kumar Dudrah published a study of the phenomenon of Bollywood as practiced in the UK – the book is entitled Bollywood: Sociology Goes to the Movies [Sage Publications], and we intend to deal with some of the study’s findings and analyses below. We choose to begin this brief “methodological note” by simply mentioning Dudrah’s work – at this point – as it is fairly representative of a series of studies that attempt to deal with the phenomenon of Bollywood, not only seriously, but also from the perspective of sociology, whatever be the sociological school that informs such perspective. We find this important for the simple reason that popular cinemagoing is one cultural practice constituting the real world of real people, and which therefore definitely deserves to be examined from a rigorous sociological perspective – on the other hand, neither highly abstract categories [and the theories that concoct these] nor journalistic chatter can do justice to the matter.
We believe that all types of sociological schools and tendencies can contribute to an understanding of the Bollywood phenomenon. And yet, whatever intended contribution can be thwarted unless certain basic methodological criteria are met, and one could enumerate a series of these. In examining data relating to cinemagoing, however, there is one simple criterion that needs not to be forgotten: all data, whether or not these fit the abstract boxes of one’s adopted theory, should be recorded and evaluated.
One is forced to make such a simple observation regarding method of work because some of the researchers that have worked on the Bollywood phenomenon have treated their material with a certain obtuse selectivity that reveals an absence of understanding as to the purpose of sociological research in general. One such is Shakuntala Banaji’s work, and especially his Reading ‘Bollywood’: The Young Audience and Hindu Films, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Certainly not all of Banaji’s findings and analyses are to be rejected, and we do make use of some of his observations in this paper. On the other hand, when Banaji wishes to examine why Indians go to the movies and what they do there – an area which this paper will also try to explore with reference to East Ham’s cinemas – this is what he writes in his 2006 study: “At a commonsense or superficial level, people everywhere have beliefs and opinions about the reasons why others go to the movies and the things they do there. Take, for instance, these statements by middle-aged middle-class men and women I spoke to…: ‘Lower-class men whistle at the screen when a heroine walks on, they cause all the disturbance, education will change that’; ‘College students go to the cinema to watch rubbish – they have no taste these days!’; ‘Television is a more comfortable way of watching films than going to the cinema’; ‘No decent woman wants to see nudity in Hindi films’; ‘Lower-class people are only attracted to the cinema halls because of the sex-rape scenes and all the fighting, nowadays films are cleaner so these types don’t attend so much’. Some of the assumptions made here are so evidently prejudiced along lines of class or gender that we might discount them. Others contain more subtle misapprehensions and may well enter cultural studies literature around Hindi films without much debate” [p. 33, my emph.].
Banaji, it seems, wishes to understand the Bollywood phenomenon by first selecting what scraps of data may or may not “enter” what he deems to be the field of sociology, depending on the degree of “apprehension” or “misapprehension” [regarding the practice of cinemagoing] that a datum represents. It goes without saying that this method of work constitutes a very serious misunderstanding of sociological research, and it may easily be contrasted to our own presentation of audience reactions and appraisals as to what happens in the East Ham cinema halls that people frequent. All forms of so-called “prejudice” and whatever forms of so-called “misapprehension” are absolutely real phenomena that make up a complex and contradictory real world – and it is precisely these that have to be described and, if possible, explained [the explanation of such phenomena can often prove dubious, especially when one uses a simple, linear cause-effect model]. Banaji’s approach willfully forgets that it is a mere “academic” prejudice to call what is deemed to be a “prejudice” a prejudice per se – and, in any case, who is it that gets to decide what is or is not a “prejudice”? There is one final point one should make here, and perhaps the most important of all: even if Banaji’s evaluation of “prejudice” is actually “objective”, he fails to consider the role of “prejudice” – and that of the “irrational” – in human society and history [a certain consideration of, say, Vilfredo Pareto’s work would certainly have helped Banaji overcome his own “misapprehensions” of human behaviour].
An introduction to the phenomenon of Bollywood, early-1990’s
We shall here introduce the phenomenon of Bollywood – and as that emerged in the period of the early-1990’s – by making a number of very rough observations, although we do consider such observations to be of paramount importance for our own particular purposes. This introduction shall have to remain very sketchy: the literature on Bollywood – be it of an academic, encyclopedic or even a journalistic nature – is so vast that we need not repeat the work already done by others.
In discussing the Hindi film industry, almost all commentators have drawn a clear distinction between the period of the mid-1980’s and that of the early-1990’s. For reasons that we need not dwell on at all [these concern the socio-economic history of India itself], it may be said that the former period was a time when the Hindi film had lost its “Indianness”; the latter period, however, was to mark a return to an intrinsic Indian ideological discourse. It was this revitalization of “Indianness” that the Bollywood genre of the 1990’s was to express in its overall diegetic approach.
There is much in the literature on Bollywood that captures this rupture between the 1980’s and the 1990’s, and does so in a variety of ways. One book, for instance, examines this rupture by focusing on the Hindi song and its role in Hindi movies – consider the following extract from Ganesh Anantharaman’s work, Bollywood Melodies: A History of the Hindi Film Song, Penguin Books India, 2008: “But alas,… somewhere in the mid-1980s, the Hindi film song started to lose its ‘Indianness’, and it was only in the early 1990s with movies such as ‘Aashiqui’, ‘Dil Hain Ki Maanta Nahim’ and ‘Saajan’, and the arrival of Nadeem-Shravan, that there was a return to the intrinsic Indian melody” [p. xiv].
By the 1990’s, the ideological discourse of many Hindi movies – as manifested, inter alia, in their narrative and music – was to be dominated by this newly rediscovered “Indianness”. And it would be this new genre that would come to be named “Bollywood”. Lucia Krämer, in her excellent study, Bollywood in Britain: Cinema, Brand, Discursive Complex, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2017 [no on-line pagination], notes: “… ‘Bollywood’ denotes the popular Hindi cinema since the mid-1990s and the industry that produces it”. As to the origins of the term “Bollywood”, and presumably making use of information available in Madhava Prasad’s work [cf. “The Name of a Desire: Why They Call It Bollywood”, in Unsettling Cinema – A Symposium on the Place of Cinema in India, May 2003], Krämer writes: “The exact origin of the term ‘Bollywood’ remains uncertain. Prasad records the use of the term ‘Tollywood’ – a playful reference to the Bengali film industry complex of Tollygunge – in a telegram to an American film engineer in 1932, which he considers a precursor of ‘Bollywood’…”
The term “Bollywood”, of course, refers to the City of Bombay – and which is home to the specifically Hindi-language film industry. All too often, however – and especially in the case of Western journalists – the term “Bollywood” is somewhat mistakenly used to refer to whatever film is produced in India, thus ignoring the rest of India’s regional cinemas. On the other hand, one could say that such oversight is merely symptomatic of the fact that Bollywood per se remains the dominant ideological mechanism determining the discourse of “Indianness”. Regarding this matter, Krämer writes: “The fact that the reference to ‘Bombay’ in ‘Bollywood’ also implies a distinction between Hindi cinema and other Indian regional cinemas is often overlooked by foreigners. Even though the Tamil and Telugu film industries in South India are equally or even more prolific…, Hindi films, for the mere reason of language, have the widest national circulation and dominate the discourse about Indian cinema. They are a standard that other regional cinemas follow both aesthetically and economically…”
We shall be discussing in what follows how and why this revitalization of the Bollywood phenomenon would percolate into the “cultural clusters” of the UK, and with specific reference to the area of East Ham. Here, we may merely note the types and sub-types of Indian movies that would be shown in the UK by the 1990’s, though always keeping in mind the dominance of the Hindi movie and its ideology of “Indianness”. Krämer informs us as follows: “With rare exceptions, almost all Indian releases in the UK are Indian mainstream movies. The majority have been in Hindi, although Tamil films and, to a lesser degree, Punjabi films have had a smaller but stable presence in the cinemas. Films in other Indian languages, like Telugu or Urdu, in contrast, play a decidedly minor role in theatrical exhibition”. In our forthcoming examination of the movie experiences of East Ham local audiences, we shall see that all or most of the movies that these audiences would be watching are exactly the type listed by Krämer – two types that are not mentioned in her list, however, are the Kannada segment of the Indian cinema and the Malayalam-language movies. We may in any case simply present here – and based mostly on Krämer’s observations – the various types and sub-types of Indian movies in terms of language used, and do so in the order of their relative prevalence in UK’s movie theatres:
- First in the order of prevalence in UK movie theatres: the Hindi-language films, these constituting Bollywood proper both as an industry and as the dominant genre.
- Second in the order of prevalence: the Tamil-language films. The film industry producing Tamil-language films is often referred to as Kollywood – East Ham’s Boleyn Cinema, according to locals, is said to have been showing all of the latest Kollywood movies on a weekly basis [we shall of course be devoting special sections below to the type of movies that East Ham’s Boleyn and Cineworld cinemas have been showing for locals].
- Third in the order of prevalence: the Punjabi-language films – this particular film industry is often referred to as Pollywood.
- Fourth in the order of prevalence: the Telugu-language and the Urdu-language films. We may note here, firstly, that Telugu-language films are also referred to as the Tollywood cinema [this term, by the way, has also been used to refer to the Bengali-language industry, cf. above]. It may simply be mentioned here that – at least according to some East Hammers – the Boleyn Cinema has been showing all or most of the types of Tollywood movies through the years. Secondly, and as regards Urdu-language films, we may say that these are mostly produced in Pakistan [the film industry in this case is referred to as Lollywood]; some Urdu-language films are also produced in India.
- We cannot determine the degree of prevalence regarding Kannada-language films in UK movie theatres. As we shall see below, however, quite a number of locals frequenting Ilford’s Cineworld have expressed a steady preference for Kannada-language films. Regarding this type of regional movie, Wikipedia notes: “Kannada cinema, also known as Sandalwood or Chandanavana, is the segment of Indian cinema dedicated to the production of motion pictures in the Kannada language widely spoken in the state of Karnataka”.
- It has also proven difficult to determine the degree of prevalence regarding Malayalam-language films in the UK’s movie theatres. Based on audience comments, we know that the Cineworld Cinema, at least, has been showing almost all of Malayalam-language film releases – many locals have expressed an appreciation for this. Wikipedia informs us that “The Malayalam cinema is the Indian film industry based in the southern state of Kerala”. The sobriquet often used to refer to this film industry – the fourth biggest in India – is Mollywood.
One could roughly say, therefore, that the types and/or sub-types of Asian films that prevail in the movie theatres of East Ham and its environs come to seven – summarily, these are the following:
- Hindi-language Bollywood
- Tamil-language Kollywood
- Punjabi-language Pollywood
- Telugu-language Tollywood
- Urdu-language Lollywood
- Kannada-language Sandalwood
- Malayalam-language Mollywood
Since it is the Bollywood industry that operates as the dominant standard for the rest of the regional film industries, we shall have to use the term “Bollywood” as a generic term covering the whole of Asian – and especially Indian – film production [unless specific regional cinemas are being discussed]. Now, and having said that, it has been observed that Bollywood-as-a-whole is characterized by at least six basic genres within itself. Dudrah, in his Bollywood: Sociology Goes to the Movies [op. cit.], writes: “… Bollywood comprises several genres of films,… five generic strands of films can be loosely identified. Devotional Films, Historic Films, Social Films or Topicals, Muslim Social Films, and Masala Films [mixed genres]… [But there is also] a sixth genre, that of Romantic Films…” [no on-line pagination]. We shall come across – and discuss – all or most of these genres as we examine various movies that have been shown in the Boleyn and Cineworld cinemas.
Raising the central question: is Bollywood a symptom of “media globalization”?
As mentioned, one of the basic purposes of this paper is to answer what we consider to be a central question: to what extent is the Bollywood phenomenon indicative of what has so often been presented as “media globalization” and to what extent has this been a mere myth? We intend to answer the question, not by indulging in abstract generalizations, but by examining the phenomenon there where the rubber hits the road – viz. the locality of East Ham and the cinemagoing practices of its locals.
Krämer introduces her work [op. cit.] by writing: “Bollywood appears like one of the most obvious examples and success stories of media globalization”. We need emphasize the word “appears”.
The mere fact that India’s Bollywood movies are systematically shown in countries such as the UK – as also in so many others – would suggest such “media globalization”, confirming that “appearance”. Krämer continues: “It [Bollywood] really does seem like a perfect case of media globalization… Yet media globalization is a highly contested concept”.
Such contestation of this so-called “concept” is evident in a variety of literature on Bollywood – one such is the work of Kai Hafez, The Myth of Media Globalization, Polity Press, 2007 [originally published in German, 2005]. We shall of course be making use of some of the data and analyses presented in this work.
The mere fact that there is controversy surrounding the “globalization” of Bollywood allows us, not to only raise the question for ourselves, but to actually attempt to answer it by examining the real life situation of a locality such as East Ham.
The “independent” Asian cinemas versus the multiplex cinema chains – in the UK generally and in East Ham in particular
From a general, historical perspective – and according to Krämer [op. cit] – it was in the decade of the 1970’s that we would see the first appearance of the “specialist” Indian cinemas in the UK and on a nationwide scale. Ultimately coming to 120 venues, they would show Indian films either full time or only part time. This was not, however, the first time that UK’s Indian settlers would have access to Indian films – Krämer explains: “Before then, Indian films would have been screened at off-peak times on weekends at mainstream cinemas hired for these particular shows, especially in areas with large Asian population groups…” [my emph.]. We see here, therefore, that the gradual process of the crystallization of ethnic-based “cultural clusters” originating from India would be accompanied by either the early emergence of the “specialist” Indian cinema or by the partial or ad hoc utilization of mainstream cinemas to serve the cultural needs of such crystallizing “clusters”.
The ultimate consummation of these Asian “cultural clusters” in the UK, together with the consolidation of Bollywood proper in India itself – both by the 1990’s – would signal the re-emergence of Bollywood cinemagoing in the UK. And we would thus have a return to the establishment of the “specialized” Indian cinema in many localities of the UK, a typical example of which would be East Ham and its environs. Krämer notes that “the 1990s… saw the re-emergence of Bollywood cinema-going, at first in the shape of individual late-night screenings, which developed into longer runs… Later, with the arrival of successful big-budget movies [from India], specialized cinemas with South Asian programming returned”.
The introduction of big-budget Bollywood movies to cater for the needs of UK’s Indian settlers in the early-1990’s had been initiated by Asian entrepreneurs based in the country – their initiative had been prompted by two factors already alluded to: [i] the resurgence of India’s Bollywood movie industry, and which had meant the return of India’s middle classes to the cinemas, something that the UK entrepreneurs would see as an opportunity to reproduce in the UK as well; and [ii] such an entrepreneurial opportunity existed precisely because the UK’s Indian “cultural clusters” had expanded and crystallized to such an extent as to form a ready market. The privately hired film venues for individual screenings and the ultimately longer runs – as mentioned above – were so successful that “special” cinema venues for the exclusive screening of Bollywood movies would gradually come to be established, as they were. And thus we would have the establishment of the Boleyn cinema in East Ham. Krämer puts this as follows: “This model [viz. the privately hired venues] was so successful that by the end of the 1990s cinemas specializing in South Asian programming started to re-emerge in areas with large British Asian population groups. Cinemas like… the Boleyn Cinema in East Ham… were manifestations of this development” [my emph.].
Such a set of historical circumstances, however, would not only be manifested through the emergence of the “specialized” Bollywood-screening cinemas, which – from what we may gather – were usually set up, owned and managed by Indians themselves. At the same time – viz. the end of the 1990’s – the big Bollywood releases would also be screened by cinema multiplex chains operating in the UK, and obviously situated in or near localities where the appropriate “cultural clusters” would be settled. Krämer writes: “By the end of the decade [of the 1990’s], the biggest releases even found their way onto individual multiplex screens, with UCI [United Cinemas International] multiplexes, which would later become part of the Odeon Cinemas chain, showing Indian films at least twice a week at their sixteen venues”. In the case of the vicinity of East Ham, the cinema multiplex chain catering to ethnic “cultural clusters” would be Ilford’s Cineworld [but which would not itself belong to the Odeon chain].
As in other localities characterized by related ethnic-based “cultural clusters”, the region of East Ham would therefore be served by two different types of cinemas, both of which would compete for Asian audiences interested in Bollywood movies. By 2015 and onwards, such competition would place the “independent” Boleyn Cinema – as all such types of cinemas operating elsewhere in the UK – under increasing economic pressure. Krämer continues: “These specialized cinemas are clearly under enormous economic pressure from the multiplexes, which have been showing Indian films nationally and on a regular basis for years.” The overall result of this has been two-fold: on the one hand, South Asian screens would dwindle in number; on the other hand, the actual screening of Indian films generally has been expanding.
This dwindling in the number of South Asian screens – and right at the same time as the screening of Bollywood movies in the UK was expanding – would obviously mean that the “independent” cinemas would generally be yielding to the multiplexes. Krämer presents this as a foregone conclusion – she writes that “the independent cinemas have ceded the Bollywood market practically exclusively to the multiplexes, which jostle for the available clients in their local and regional catchment areas”.
Practically speaking, this ceding to multiplex chains would mean that the screening of Bollywood movies in the UK would be taken out of the hands of Asians. It is suggested by Krämer – and based on her readings of other analysts as well – that Asian agents and Asian-owned cinemas could be rendered redundant in their struggle to survive in the face of the competition posed by the multiplex chains.
This general reality – which we have no reason to deny – raises at least one crucial question for our purposes: What has this meant as regards the cultural milieu of cinemagoing within the locality of East Ham itself? To put it otherwise: in what way – if any at all – has this relative domination of the multiplex chain cinema affected the cinemagoing practices of the “cultural clusters” within the locality?
Below, we shall be examining in some detail the popular cultural practice of cinemagoing at Ilford’s multiplex Cineworld Cinema in particular – and which will certainly allow us to answer questions pertaining to the milieu of cinemagoing amongst the region’s various “cultural clusters” frequenting such a type of venue. It shall also allow us to more generally evaluate the extent to which the area’s traditional cinemagoing milieu has been affected by the presence of that multiplex cinema.
However, and at the same time, it is absolutely important to note that, at least as regards the case of East Ham, the struggle to survive on the part of “independent” cinemas would not in any way mean the complete marginalization of the Boleyn Cinema. In fact, East Ham’s Boleyn Cinema has come to constitute a significant exception to the general rule – it remains one of the few Asian-owned “independent” cinemas to have survived the onslaught of the multiplex chains in the Greater London area [to have survived, that is, right up to 2020 – thereafter, its closure belongs to a completely different set of historical circumstances, that of the coronavirus pandemic]. As to the survival of East Ham’s Boleyn Cinema, Krämer tells us that, by 2015, “Only two British cinemas with predominantly South Asian programming have survived [the competition with the multiplexes]: the Safari in Harrow and the Boleyn Cinema Upton Park (i.e. two cinemas in the Greater London area)” [my emph.]. Obviously, this points to the important historical significance of a cinema venue such as that of the Boleyn.
We may at this point refer to an interesting comment made by a local who seems to have been a rather regular patron of the Boleyn Cinema [cf. Google Reviews – all cinemagoers’ comments to be presented below have been retrieved from this source, unless stated otherwise; all references as to when the comment was made tell us that it had been recorded at some specific time-period prior to the end of 2020 – this shall apply to all comments retrieved from the Google Reviews]. The patron, by the name of Hasnath Kalam – and who is said to be writing three years ago – informs us that the venue is “One of the few remaining individual cinema [sic] in London as opposed to the corporate multiplexes where you do not get the personal touch from the staff”. Kalam’s comment on the Boleyn is accurate, in that it clearly distinguishes between, on the one hand, what he calls the “individual” cinema [which we have presented above as the “independent” type of cinema] and, on the other, the corporate multiplex cinema. Writing of “One of the few remaining” cinemas, he also seems to capture the sequel to the competition that has come to characterize the relationship between these two types of cinemas.
Kalam’s brief comment, however, goes a bit further – he tells us that the Boleyn Cinema offers its patrons a much more “personal touch” as opposed to the services of the multiplex type of cinema. This observation seems to more or less relate to the issue we have raised above – viz. the extent to which the ultimate dominance of a multiplex cinema such as that of Cineworld would have an impact on the traditional cinemagoing practices of locals. In our examination of the cinemagoing practices of the locality, we shall see that an “individual” or “independent” cinema such as the Boleyn would clearly reflect the needs of the community directly – the venue was of that community and its “cultural clusters”, it had grown therein and was organically tied to it. In what follows further below, we shall also have to investigate the extent to which even an “implant” as was the Cineworld Cinema would have to adjust to the cultural needs of the community it served, and do so given the very thrust of cultural practices expressive of “cultural clusters” defining the area.
There is one final – but sociologically important – issue pertaining to this apparently dichotomous manifestation of the world of cinemagoing in an area such as East Ham. This issue can be put as follows: has there been some relationship between the choice of cinema amongst locals – viz. that of the “independent” vis-à-vis that of the multiplex – based on the social stratum to which a local belongs? We shall present a few observations here, though we are fully aware that these shall have to remain rough generalizations.
Perhaps we should first begin by stating that this type of question runs the risk of oversimplifying reality: it would be rather rash to wish to identify some kind of an equation between a person’s socio-economic position and his/her choice of cinema hall. A person’s choice of venue, surely, may be determined by a myriad of both personal and non-personal [or “objective”] factors – choice, therefore, simply cannot be reduced to any one, single determining component.
And yet, Krämer’s study [op. cit.] does attempt to touch on this alleged relationship between a cinema audience’s socio-economic position in society and its choice of cinema. To the extent that there is some truth in such a relationship – and there must be – we shall need to briefly consider it. Krämer writes: “Cinema audiences for Indian mainstream films encompass a wide spectrum of social strata, with obvious differences between individual cinemas depending on their socio-demographic environment and their programming and pricing strategies”.
It must accepted that, at least based on the matter of cinema ticket pricing, one may draw a fairly distinct line between the upscale and the downscale type of cinema theatre, and which could mean that different income brackets would be attracted to each of these types respectively. Referring to different types of cinema venues in the UK, Krämer continues: “… an upscale multiplex cinema with correspondingly high ticket prices… which shows only the biggest and most successful Bollywood releases, naturally attracts a different sort of clients than a suburban Asian independent cinema…” And she goes on to tell us that tickets in the latter type of cinema may “cost only £6 for peak shows on the weekend and as little as £3 for some other shows”.
Now, this distinction between the upscale and downscale type of cinema may be said to apply to the case of Ilford’s Cineworld and to that of the Boleyn Cinema respectively – their corresponding ticket pricing does seem to verify Krämer’s observations. Below, we shall be undertaking a fairly detailed examination of the question of ticket pricing pertaining to these two cinemas. Here, we may briefly point to the differences between their respective ticket pricing and draw some general conclusions. Based on information provided by Ilford’s Cineworld website [cf. https://www.cineworld.co.uk], standard ticket prices for the multiplex cinema are as follows:
- Adults: £11.00
- Children: £5.00
- Students: £9.00
- Seniors: £9.00
- Families: £20.00
The Cineworld’s standard ticket pricing policy may be directly contrasted to that of the Boleyn Cinema’s. According to the latter’s website [cf. https://www.boleyncinemas.com] – and also based on a variety of patron commentary [cf. below] – ticket prices have been as follows:
- Adults: £5.00 or £6.00
- Children aged 0-2: free
- Children aged 3-9: half the adult price, therefore either £2.50 or £3.00
- Children aged 10 and above: full ticket price
- Bargain prices may be offered, or individual discounts can be made
- Generally speaking, ticket prices are not fixed
- Prices may also be determined by the particular movie shown – tickets can be more expensive than usual in the case of a big-budget Bollywood release; ticket prices for certain Telugu-language films have come to £10.00 or even £15 per adult.
Generally speaking, therefore – and despite certain exceptional occasions – one could say that the fairly stark difference in ticket pricing policy between these two cinemas is such as to attract different social strata to their respective venues. It may be said that the Cineworld Cinema would be more suitable for the better-off locals belonging to the middle- or upper-middle classes; while the Boleyn Cinema would be more suitable for the lower-income working classes. And thus one may further go on to suggest that the practice of cinemagoing in a region such as that of East Ham is impacted by what has classically been dubbed as “class stratification”. Of course, one objection that could be raised here is that drawing such a type of conclusion is simply pedantic – it assumes that it is abstract “income brackets” that flock to a cinema theatre and not real people whose choice of venue may be based on personal, extra-economic factors.
Assuming nonetheless that this quasi-Marxian position of “class stratification” with respect to the practice of cinemagoing does hold water, there yet remains an absolutely crucial question that calls for an answer: to what extent does such stratification – and the supposed “class consciousness” that goes with it – determine the cultural practices of the people that compose a community such as East Ham? In other words, one may go ahead and demonstrate that it is the reality of “economics” that is a more or less dominant factor in the life of a community – such as yet hypothetically dominant component, however, would not automatically suggest that it is at the same time determinant as regards cultural practices. And we say this because it is possible that yet another reality – that of ethnic history, ethnic experience and ethnic consciousness – may play a relatively more decisive role in determining the cultural milieu of, say, cinemagoing. The point here is that there is no general, abstract rule whereby one may decide as to which particular material or ideological reality is the ultimate determinant of any milieu [in fact, it would be some combination of realities that play such role]. In the absence of whatever abstract “laws” of history and society, we shall have to conclude that the only manner in which one can answer this question of determination is none other than through the examination of concrete empirical data – which is precisely what we intend to do below.
East Ham’s cinemas: three venues – some brief historical notes
To begin with, we should straight away clarify that we are not here suggesting that the vicinity of East Ham is – or has been – home to just three cinema theatres. Our purpose in this paper is to focus on certain venues that have historically catered to the needs of the area’s ethnic-based “cultural clusters”.
The address of the Boleyn Cinema is 7-11 Barking Road, East Ham, London, E6 1PW, UK. Google describes the venue as follows: “Asian cinema with three screens showing the latest Bollywood releases, some of which are subtitled” [it should be noted that by 2015, and following certain structural alterations, the cinema venue would only provide two screens]. According to The List [cf. https://www.film.list.co.uk], the Boleyn is a cinema “Specializing in Asian cinema, this is the second largest Bollywood screen in the UK” [with the largest perhaps being the Safari Cinema, op. cit.]. The Boleyn Cinema informs locals – as also non-locals, of course – of its latest releases through its website [cf. above] and by administering a Facebook Page. The local community does not, however, merely rely on these two formal on-line sources to inform itself of what film the cinema is screening – other, more informal methods of information are used, and which will be discussed in some detail below.
The general history of the Boleyn Cinema has been roughly recorded by Ken Roe, and which is available in Cinema Treasures [cf. https://www.cinematreasures.org/theatres/14651]. Although it is beyond our means – and definitely well beyond the purpose of this paper – to verify the information provided by Roe, we nonetheless present it here as it constitutes a highly fascinating story, and which is one important dimension of the history of East Ham itself.
Roe begins by informing us of the very early origins of the cinema: “Boleyn Cinema… 2 screens/1.334 seats… Located in the east London district of East Ham. Built on the site of the Boleyn Electric Theatre (1910) which was demolished to build this new Odeon Theatre for the Oscar Deutsch chain. It opened on 18th July 1938 with Max Miller in ‘Thank Evans’. It was designed in a sleek Art Deco style by noted cinema architect Andrew Mather, assisted by Keith P. Roberts and the original seating capacity was for 2.212; 1.418 in the stalls and 794 in the balcony.”
He continues by briefly covering a span of time stretching from the decade of the 1960’s and through to the early-1980’s: “During the mid-1960’s it underwent an ill-fated ‘modernization’ which removed most of the auditorium decoration. It continued as the Odeon, East Ham until it was closed by the Rank Organization on 31st October 1981 with Walt Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’…” No explanation is provided as to why the cinema had to be closed down at the time. It is possible that its closure may be put down to the changing demographics of the area and the gradual demise of the native “cockney” element – unlike the latter, the up and coming ethnic-based “cultural clusters” would not have identified much with Hollywood movies. Such an explanation of the venue’s closure, however, does remain mere speculation – and it has to remain so given the absence of any hard empirical data.
Roe then proceeds to point to that lengthy period of time when the Odeon Cinema would remain abandoned and forsaken – and would do so until such time as the Bollywood phenomenon would re-emerge both in India and the UK [as has been discussed above]. For the locality of East Ham in particular, this re-emergence would mean the birth of the new, all-Asian Boleyn Cinema. Roe writes: “After laying [sic] boarded up and un-used for 14 years it was taken over by an independent operator who sub-divided the auditorium into three screens and it re-opened as the Boleyn Cinema in late-1995 screening Bollywood films. The main screen in the former balcony still has its original 794 seating capacity. The two screens located in the rear stalls area each have seating capacities of 270”. Roe’s information, therefore, fully confirms what we have observed thus far – viz. that the establishment of the new Boleyn Cinema of the 1990’s would directly coincide with the re-emergence of the dominant Bollywood genre both in India and ultimately within the UK itself. The period of time between the 1980’s and the 1990’s would mark a transition in the change of demographics in a locality such as East Ham; it would also mark the period of hibernation of the Bollywood phenomenon. The Asian-owned Boleyn Cinema would be established precisely when the Asian “cultural clusters” would mature and crystallize, as also when that period of a hibernating Indian cinema would come to an end.
As we shall further see below, the Boleyn Cinema would come to function as a centre for cultural affiliation and “bonding” of the locality’s “cultural clusters” – it would therefore also operate as a banquet hall for various social occasions. Roe informs us as follows: “It was closed in early-2014 to convert the former twin screens in the stalls into a banquet hall, and the former balcony has now been converted into two screens which opened early-2015”.
Finally, Roe notes that, by 2020, the Boleyn Cinema would cease to operate – he writes: “It was closed on March 16 2020 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. It has been decided it will not re-open and planning permission has been approved to demolish and build flats and retail on the site”.
For twenty-five years, the Boleyn Cinema had been an organic part of the ethnic “cultural clusters” of East Ham – and the locals, as we shall see below, are very much aware of that. Writing two years ago, a local who signs his Google comment as Poorna Chandra Rao N., tells us that the Boleyn Cinema is a theatre of the “old iconic” type.
We may now briefly examine the case of Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema. Its address is Clements Road, Ilford, IG1 1BP, and is in the so-called I-Scene Leisure Complex. This location is about 3.3 mile’s distance from the Boleyn Cinema – one can get from the one cinema to the other in about ten minutes by car.
Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema was established by a London-based cinema company bearing the same brand name. According to Ken Roe [cf. Cinema Treasures, op. cit.], the Ilford theatre opened on 3rd May, 2002. The year of its opening is further confirmed by a number of comments made by patrons, one such being Jessen R, a cinemagoing local writing six years ago [cf. further below]. This multiplex cinema provided eleven screens and a total of 2.200 seats.
In comparison to that of the Boleyn, the history of the Cineworld Cinema is a completely different kettle of fish. The latter cinema cannot be said to be an organic outgrowth of the community – it had been “implanted” therein by a cinema chain for the sole purpose of tapping the local demand for movies, and especially for the Bollywood type of cinema [though not only]. As we shall clearly see below, however, such “implanted” cinema theatre would have to fully adjust to the popular culture of cinemagoing precisely as practiced by the ethnic locals of the community within which the venue had to operate – in fact, such adjustment was exactly what had to constitute a proper and successful tapping of the local market.
It goes without saying that any narration of the history of Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema cannot in any way be disentangled from the story of the powerful cinema chain that established it – and such story cannot itself be disentangled from the specific marketing strategies of that chain. We believe that one of the best sources of information on the cinema chain in question is that of Stuart Hanson’s Screening the World: Global Development of the Multiplex Cinema, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.
In a chapter entitled, “The multiplex market begins to consolidate”, Hanson begins by providing us with some basic details regarding the establishment of the UK cinema chain that was to ultimately open Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema. He writes: “Cineworld was the brand name of Cine-UK, a start-up company formed in 1995 by Steve Wiener, the ex-managing director of Warner Bros Theatres (UK) and claimed to be Britain’s first new exhibitor in 40 years. Cine-UK was funded by a group of backers including J.P. Morgan and Rothschild Investment Trust, and the venture capital company Botts & Co which put up the £40 million to start the company, and its initial 14 sites” [p. 125].
The company had identified specific types of markets in the UK that it thought could be tapped, markets which had thus far been ignored. Without wishing to argue that the company’s establishment in 1995 was in direct response to the resurgence of Bollywood at that exact same period of time, it nonetheless does seem that the company was aware of new catchment areas in the localities of the UK. Hanson puts this as follows: “Weiner and Cine-UK felt that the opportunities for expansion in the British multiplex market were in what they identified as under-screened city centres and out-of-centre developments and smaller catchment areas, which had been hitherto ignored by the larger circuits…” [ibid.].
The company’s market prognostications proved right – Hanson writes of a “rapid expansion of Cineworld sites, which by the end of 2000 numbered 19 with 210 screens. Many of these were in town centre locations… and/or in edge-of-centre leisure parks near towns…” [p.126].
What is of crucial significance for our purposes is that the company’s catchment areas would ultimately also come to include localities with ethnic-based “cultural clusters”, the members of which wished to view [or, in fact, had an existential need for viewing] Bollywood movies. Importantly, Hanson explains: “One of the innovative aspects of Cine-UK’s approach, in part a result of some of its locations, was its programming of Hindi-language or ‘Bollywood’ films under standard profit-sharing distribution terms” [ibid., my emph.].
The company’s strategy of screening Bollywood films in some of its multiplex cinemas – and doing so in direct response to the needs of various “cultural clusters” within localities – would mean that it would soon come to capture a major share of the Bollywood market within the UK. Hanson notes as follows: “By 2007, Cine-UK had 55 per cent of [the] British market for Hindi-language films” [ibid.]. It has been suggested that its venture into the world of the Bollywood genre had also been successful given the clampdown on pirated Bollywood videos at the time.
The entrepreneurial venture into the world of Bollywood and the screening of Indian films in localities dominated by settlers would be undertaken cautiously and through a series of piloted programmes. It would only be after such programmes had been successfully tested in one of the company’s specially chosen sites that the company would finally embark on screening Bollywood movies in its multiplex venues located in places such as Ilford. According to Hanson: “The company had piloted the screenings [of Bollywood films] at its four-screen Feltham site in London before rolling them out to venues like Ilford, Luton, Bradford, and Wolverhampton” [ibid.].
Cine-UK’s construction and operation of Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema must therefore be placed within the general context as delineated by Hanson’s study. Built in 2002 – as mentioned above – the Cineworld Cinema was part and parcel of the company’s nationwide tapping of a “secondary market” as was the Bollywood market in the UK. Hanson writes: “Cine-UK… set in train an ambitious expansion, with 16 multiplexes proposed for 2001-02 and like their first tranche these were in what many analysts called ‘secondary markets’ – smaller towns and regional centres. In reality, Cine-UK had opened ten Cineworld multiplexes by the end of 2002 and a further three by the end of 2003, whereupon Cine-UK’s 32 multiplexes (357 screens) had made it the fourth largest cinema circuit in Britain” [ibid].
While the story of Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema cannot – as we have asserted – be disentangled from that of Cine-UK, the story of the latter can nonetheless be disengaged from that of the former. As a relatively successful company, Cine-UK would undergo a series of acquisitions and mergers that cannot concern us here. Merely for the sake of interest, we simply refer to a sample extract from Hanson’s study regarding the plight of Cine-UK – he writes: “Amidst much speculation about the future of the company as a target for consolidation, it was acquired by US private equity group Blackstone in September 2004, for approximately £120 million…” [ibid.]. The history of the company does not of course end in 2004, acquisitions and mergers being standard developments for many companies of the type that Cine-UK was. What is of major interest for our purposes may be put as follows: While the story of Ilford’s Cineworld cannot be disentangled from that of Cine-UK, developments taking place within the latter would in no way have any impact whatsoever on the manner in which Ilford’s Cineworld would operate as regards the cinemagoing practices and milieu of its ethnic audiences. The ethnic-based cultural practices of its patrons would remain intact and fully independent of what was happening within the headquarters of Cine-UK. Local audiences ruled the roost within the cinema hall, not managerial decisions on acquisitions and mergers. In this instance at least, we see ethnic-based cultural practices maintain their autonomy vis-à-vis the vicissitudes of big capital.
We may now move on to a brief presentation of a third cinema venue that had operated in the area of East Ham and its environs, that of the East Ham Granada Theatre. Unlike both the Boleyn and the Cineworld cinemas, the Granada Theatre cannot be said to have played any significant role – at least as regards the time-span of its engagement with Indian movie screenings – in the Bollywood movie-watching milieu that would come to constitute part of the cultural practices of the region. And yet, the East Ham Granada Theatre is of interest for a number of noteworthy reasons. To begin with, we may say that this venue had always constituted a hub of cultural practices expressive of the “cockney culture” in the area well prior to the influx of settler “cultural clusters”. Its operation is therefore of major interest for historical reasons. Secondly, however, its history allows us to see how the gradual dissipation of the “cockney” element would also be expressed through the demise of the theatre itself – it would be precisely such demise that would inevitably lead to the theatre’s experimental “flirtation” with the screening of Hindi-language films in the 1970’s [a period of time in which, and as mentioned above, the cultural needs of crystallizing ethnic “clusters” could also be somewhat met through the partial/ad hoc utilization of mainstream cinemas].
The address of what was once the Granada Cinema is 281 Barking Road, East Ham. In the period of its operation as a cinema hall, the venue provided roughly 2.400 seats [cf. https://www.stories-of-london.org/granada-theatre-east-ham].
Yet again, it is Ken Roe in Cinema Treasures [op. cit.] who provides us with some rough data outlining the story of the East Ham Granada Theatre. Its story goes back as far as the period of the 1910’s – Roe writes: “Located in the east London district of East Ham. Built on the site of the East Ham Empire of 1914 which became the Kinema in 1928, which was demolished to build this new Granada Theatre. It was going to be a new cinema for the Denman (London) circuit (part of Gaumont British) who had operated the Empire Kinema, but Granada Theatres were also interested in the site and a deal was struck for them to operate the new cinema which was designed by Gaumont’s house architect William E. Trent and the land was owned by Gaumont for many years”.
The official opening of the East Ham Granada Theatre was to take place in the 1930’s – Roe writes: “It was the fourth largest Granada Theatre to open and was fully equipped to stage shows as well as films. It opened on 30th November 1936 with Sydney Howard in ‘Fame’ and Al Jolson in ‘The Singing Kid’. Seating was provided in stalls and balcony and the interior decoration was by Granada Theatre’s interior designer Theodore Komisarjevsky”.
Roe goes on to suggest – somewhat indirectly but we believe accurately so – that the East Ham Granada Theatre would be in full operation [bar a short time-span during the war years] right up to the decade of the 1960’s. The cinema’s operation in the course of these years is in any case fully corroborated by further references that we shall be considering below. This is how Roe puts it: “It was closed by bomb damage on 29th July 1944 and remained closed for three months. The building was fully acquired by Granada in March 1965”. One may assume that if, as Roe notes, the cinema were to remain closed for these three months, it must have operated thereafter.
The actual demise of the theatre was to occur in the decade of the 1970’s – as Roe tells us: “From 9th June 1974 it went on limited opening hours by closing on Mondays and Tuesdays and final closure as a full time cinema came on 9th November 1974 with David Essex in ‘That’ll Be The Day’ and Marc Bolan in ‘Born to Boogie’…”
It is of some historical importance to note that the cinema’s demise would coincide chronologically with its fairly brief flirtation with the screening of Bollywood movies for Asian settlers. This may suggest that the Granada Theatre was trying to respond to a new socio-cultural reality emerging in the region – viz. the gradual dissipation of the “cockney” element and the concomitant rise of ethnic-based cultural practices. We cannot say for certain why the cinema would ultimately fail even as it attempted to serve the needs of Asian “cultural clusters” – we may very tentatively suggest that its failure may be put down to the competition it could have faced from the first emergence of the “specialist” Indian cinemas of that period [cf. above]. Roe’s brief notes do not of course attempt to investigate the causes of the theatre’s demise – he merely records its flirtation with Indian-language movies and events thereafter. This is what he tells us: “Occasional live shows were presented and Bollywood films were shown on Sundays for just over a year, until it was converted into a Granada Bingo Club from 16th January 1976. From May 1991 it operated as a Gala Bingo Club until closing on 15th November 2014. Plans were proposed to convert it into a banquet hall. In 2017 it was converted into a trampoline fitness centre named Flipout”.
But this building is of even greater historical significance aside from its final fate, and the possible reasons explaining such fate. It is one of the many structures located within the neighbourhoods of East Ham that silently secrete the cultural milieu of the area prior to the dissipation of the “cockney” element and therefore prior to the area’s invasion by “cultural clusters” that were to “colonize” it through settlement [this is not meant to be either judgmental of such developments or at all nostalgic of the past]. In a nutshell, the East Ham Granada Theatre of the 1950’s and 1960’s was a hub of an English “cockney” culture and of that culture’s natural articulation with a wider “Western” culture – and this would stand in clear contradistinction to the ethnic-based cultural practices that would gradually come to prevail, especially by the 1990’s [cf. Paper 2b with respect to the 1990’s “New Labour” ideology upholding the virtues of both globalization and global migration].
It is obviously well outside the purposes of this paper to examine the cultural practices that had once materialized within the walls of the Granada Theatre in the period of the 1950’s and 1960’s – we shall here merely present a few samples. Writing in Cinema Treasures [01.15.2018], someone who presents himself as Paullm notes as follows: “I was born in Plaistow and raised in East Ham. I now live in Dallas, Texas. I have so many special memories of the East Ham Granada. Sometime in the early-mid 60’s, I saw Dusty Springfield, Big Dee Irwin, Freddie and The Dreamers and several other big-name artists (who I cannot remember) there”. We may briefly remind ourselves here that Dusty Springfield was an English pop singer and an icon of the “Swinging Sixties”; Big Dee Irwin was an American pop singer; and Freddie and The Dreamers were an English beat band hailing from Manchester.
Paullm continues: “We used to go round the back to Winter Avenue to watch the stars leave by the back entrance. That row of (now boarded up) upstairs dressing rooms has seen many famous artists and groups get ready for their performances… Other than the Beatles, I know Stevie Wonder had also performed there”. Of course, neither the famous band hailing from Liverpool nor Motown’s Stevie Wonder need any introduction.
Finally, Paullm adds: “Buddy Holly and The Crickets did two shows there on March 13, 1958. Also, on the bill that night… Lonnie Donegan!” Buddy Holly, of course, was the American singer-songwriter who pioneered mid-1950’s rock and roll music with his band, The Crickets. Donegan was a British Skiffle singer, very popular in the decade of the 1960’s.
Ken Roe himself also provides us with some information regarding the erstwhile cultural practices that had taken place in the East Ham Granada Theatre prior to the dissipation of the “cockney” milieu – he writes: “On a musical note, the Granada Theatre was equipped with a ‘190 Granada Special’ Wurlitzer 3Manual/8 Rank theatre organ with Grand Piano which was opened by Donald Thorne. The Beatles appeared twice at the Granada Theatre in March and November 1963” [cf. Cinema Treasures, 04.12.2005].
We do not intend to make any further references to the East Ham Granada Theatre below – for our purposes, its story is over and done with and would in no way help us understand the ethnic-based cinemagoing practices of the region, especially in the period of the 1990’s and thereafter. We shall have to focus our study on the Boleyn and Cineworld cinemas, examining the different aspects of their operation and drawing relevant conclusions on the phenomenon of Bollywood in the UK.
The Boleyn Cinema: some notes on its location
Barking Road, where the Boleyn Cinema is situated, is within the East Ham Central ward of the region. According to https://www.crystalroof.co.uk, the crime rate in this area of East Ham is the eleventh highest when compared to 33 other London boroughs. Alternatively, and based on the same source, one may say that the area’s crime rate is higher than in 90 percent of local areas in London – crime types include what is usually dubbed as “anti-social behaviour”, violence and sexual offences. Drug-related crimes have also been recorded.
According to https://www.streetscan.co.uk, “In 2019, 755 crimes were reported near Barking Road. Only 4% of streets in the UK are more dangerous. This street can be considered dangerous. The most common type of crime was anti-social behaviour. Crime rate was measured within a 0.5 mile radius of E6 1PW” [this being the Boleyn Cinema’s postcode, cf. above].
Taking a sample month of 2020, https://www.streetcheck.co.uk informs us of the number of crimes committed near Barking Road, East Ham within that short period of time – it makes the following observation: “We have found 398 crimes in December 2020 within half a mile of the centre of E6 1PW”.
Such statistical data paint a rather grim picture of a neighbourhood that has been home to a popular cinema hall frequented by locals on a daily basis. Statistics, however, only provide us with a bird’s eye view of what happens in the area. Locals are aware of the possible dangers around particular spots or know when they should be keeping off the streets – they obviously know how to protect themselves. They do not seem to “live” that type of reality provided by whatever statistical data. Thus, a local by the name of Nadeem Abbas, writing a year ago, can speak as follows of the Boleyn Cinema and the neighbourhood around it: “A good cinema at Barking Road… Nice view and approachable place day and night”. It is possible that non-locals who have visited the cinema might not feel the exact same way – but, then, they would be “outsiders” looking in.
The types of movies usually screened at the Boleyn Cinema
Simply so that we may have some idea of the types of Bollywood movies that the Boleyn Cinema has been screening, we may begin by citing a couple of random examples [we shall here ignore both their diegetic approach and their ideological discourse – this type of analysis shall be undertaken further below]. For instance, the cinema theatre would be showing the film titled “Jersey” [directed by Gowtham Tinnanuri] in 2019 – this is an Indian Telugu-language sports drama, also dubbed in the Tamil language. That same year, the cinema would be screening the film titled “Kalank” [directed by Abhishek Varman], an Indian Hindi-language drama set during the partition of India in the 1940’s. As we shall see, the Boleyn Cinema would, throughout its operation, be screening movies of the various language families of the Indian subcontinent – we shall present examples of these based on Google comments made by the cinema’s patrons.
Writing four years ago, a patron by the name of Sijo Jacob, tells us the following about the Boleyn Cinema and its screenings: “Just a rusty old cinema. However, if you want to watch Malayalam, Telugu or Tamil movies then this is one of the few places in London where they are screened”. Jacob’s reference to “one of the few places”, by the way, confirms what we have noted above – viz. that the Boleyn Cinema, in its capacity as a “specialized” South Asian screen, remained one of the few exceptions that would survive the pressure from the multiplexes [cf. above, and especially Krämer’s observations on the dwindling number of “specialist” cinemas].
Vishwa Teja Alampur, writing three years ago, has this to say about the Boleyn Cinema: “One and only place for desi movies”. The term “desi” is said to refer to someone who is a native of a “desh”, the latter meaning “country” or “homeland” in Indo-Aryan languages. “Desi” is usually used to designate a person of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi descent living abroad. Alampur is of course exaggerating when he says that the Boleyn Cinema is the “one and only” venue for “desi movies” – yet still, his words do somewhat echo those of Sijo Jacob.
We may now refer to a number of patron comments, this time all recorded exactly two years ago, which further give us an idea of the type of movies that the Boleyn Cinema has been screening – we read as follows:
- Patron Sudhanshu D.: “Mainly Indian movies shown here”. We cannot say whether Sudhanshu is here referring to Hindi-language films in particular, as opposed to the other sub-type Asian films discussed above. This type of problem is evident in quite a number of patron comments recorded in Google.
- Patron Shahbaz Raja: “… they just show Indian movies no any English”.
- Patron Narayana Murthy Pemmaraju: “… it is the only place in this area where Telugu cinemas are screened”.
- Patron Poorna Chandra Rao N.: “Went to Telugu movie…”
The following is a list of patron comments recorded exactly one year ago:
- Patron Kiran Edem: “I wish there was a better option [viz. as regards choice of cinema hall] to view Telugu movies”. Edem’s comment seems to suggest that the Boleyn Cinema is the one and only venue in the area screening Telugu-language films. The comment echoes that of Pemmaraju above.
- Patron Waris Ali: The Boleyn Cinema offers “A cheaper entertainment of the global variety films”. By the term “global”, Ali is obviously referring to Bollywood movies. His choice of term is interesting, in that it begs the question as to whether or not the Bollywood phenomenon is a symptom of “media globalization”.
- Patron Raghu Veer: “Most of the time Indian movies play here…” This comment raises the same type of question as in the case of patron Sudhanshu above.
- Patron Ajay Reddy: “One of the few Indian cinema theatres”.
- Patron Sash Fernando: “Plays pretty much all Bollywood and Tollywood and only last for few days or a week, so quick early watch is recommended”.
The following comment was made nine months ago by a patron who identifies himself as Srinevas VoilA – he writes as follows: “The appreciable aspect is that it plays movies in foreign tongues that are hard to get by for international Londoners”. Of course, when VoilA writes of “foreign tongues”, he is referring to the Indic languages; the term “international Londoners” refers to Asians residing in London.
Finally, a patron by the name of Printo Tom makes the following comment seven months ago: “All Malayalam cinemas are played here. If you want to watch mally cinemas [viz. Malayalam or Mollywood films] visit Boleyn in East Ham”.
Patron sentiments on the types of movies screened at the Boleyn Cinema
East Ham’s Boleyn Cinema projected films that were characteristic of a very specific South Asian “discursive complex” [as Krämer has put it]. As we shall further go on to see, these types of films were expressive of the cultural milieu and cultural practices of an area with a large Asian population – locals viewing such movies would therefore feel a certain emotional attachment to the diegetic and/or general ideo-cultural approach portrayed in such films. In this section, we shall continue examining the types of movies that have been screened at the Boleyn Cinema – this time, however, we shall also be focusing on the sentiments of patrons with respect to the movies they had watched.
A patron by the name of Sunil Dhiman, writing four years ago, expresses sentiments of “love” with respect to all Indian movies screened at the Boleyn Cinema, so long as such movies were what he perceives to be “good” in quality – he writes that the venue is “Good for Indian movie lovers in budget” [the reference here is to the cinema’s relatively cheap ticket price – cf. above]. And he continues: “But I love it because almost all good Indian movies come here”.
We may now present a list of comments written exactly three years ago, and all of which express patron sentiments on movies screened at the Boleyn Cinema:
- Patron Harnessh G.: The Boleyn Cinema is a “No nonsense place for South Indian flix [sic] you cannot catch elsewhere”.
- Patron Gnans S.: “Good place if you want to see regional films which are not shown elsewhere”.
- A patron who signs his comment as Jerry Fernandez expresses a special preference for what he calls “local language movies”, and which are the various types or sub-types of the Bollywood genre. He explains why or when he would choose to visit the “specialized” Boleyn Cinema as follows: “I only go there for the local language movies if it’s [sic] not playing elsewhere…”
- Patron Mandadapu Malleswara Rao’s preferences echo those of Jerry Fernandez and others – he writes of the Boleyn Cinema as follows: “Good; we can watch south Indian movies here only”.
- Patron Hasnath Kalam, who has written a number of comments on the Boleyn Cinema, tells us that the venue is “The best place to watch Bollywood movies”.
- Patron Niranjan Kumar informs us of the popularity the Boleyn Cinema amongst locals, despite the venue’s service shortcomings – he writes: “Basic facilities [are provided by the cinema hall] and popular for Indian movies… just for watching and don’t expect any great experience in any aspects” [we shall dwell on the cinema’s operation, as also on the quality of service provided by the theatre, further below].
- Patron Balram Trivedi harbours sentiments of nostalgia for the Boleyn Cinema, having been a frequenter of the venue since childhood years – he writes: “So many good childhood memories back in this place. Definitely a good choice for watching Indian/Bollywood movies”.
The following patron comments – again expressing direct or indirect sentiments about the Boleyn Cinema and the movies it has been screening – were recorded exactly one year ago:
- Patron Lukose Alex tells us that the cinema is “Home for Bollywood and South Indian films”. One may assume that the use of the word “home” expresses a certain sentiment regarding the venue.
- Patron Arpan Upadhayay tells us that the Boleyn Cinema is the venue that screens the latest of Indian movies in his area, and so urges locals to visit the theatre – he writes, inter alia: “All popular Bollywood and Tollywood are premiered here… So what u waiting for… Book the tickets now…”
- Patron Ajay Muthureddy expresses his gratitude that the cinema screens Indian movies – after complaining about the mediocre service of the theatre, he writes: “But thanks to the management for bringing new regional movies and running shows without fail”.
- Patron Haji K. feels that the Boleyn is a “Really nice cinema” as it screens the “Latest Bollywood movies!”
- Patron Pasupathi M. writes: “Best thing about Boleyn is you wouldn’t miss any Indian movies particularly South Indian movies”.
- Patron Suresh Paluri expresses the feeling that the Boleyn Cinema is a “Good place to watch Indian movies”.
- Patron Satyavada Raviteja similarly notes: “Good one for Indian movies”.
- And finally patron Dhanarajan Ramalingam writes: “Good place to catch up on South Indian movies”.
The exact same types of sentiments have been expressed by Perumal Thiruchelvam, a local patron writing eleven months ago – he simply tells us that the Boleyn Cinema is “good for regional Indian cinemas”. Also writing eleven months ago, a patron by the name of Jonathan Old tells us that “they screen good Bollywood films”.
We may lastly refer to a comment written nine months ago by local patron Jaimin Soni – it states that visiting the Boleyn Cinema allows people to “Experience the Hindi cinema”.
The Boleyn Cinema and its “Indian atmosphere”
The ethnic-based cultural practices of East Ham’s “cultural clusters” are usually such as to reproduce the cultural practices and the “atmosphere” of these clusters’ original homeland – this culturally reproductive process has also applied to the case of the Boleyn Cinema. The cinema’s patrons have always appreciated the “atmosphere of India” prevailing within the walls of the cinema halls [viz. Boleyn’s three and, later, two screens]. More accurately, they have appreciated precisely that which they have been creating for themselves as cinemagoers therein – viz. a “Little India”, and which is itself accurately reflective of the locality of East Ham as a whole. We may here present three sample comments recorded by patrons of the Boleyn Cinema pointing to the “Indian atmosphere” that has characterized the theatre generally:
A patron of the Boleyn Cinema by the name of Azad Kumar had this to say about the cinema halls three years ago: “The atmosphere resembles Indian theatres in towns”.
Melhi Yabesh, writing two years ago, tells us how much he “loved” the particular “ambience” of the Boleyn cinema – he states: “With all latest Bollywood Kollywood every week this theatre gives you the ambience of being in a[n] Indian Theatre. Loved it”.
Patron Meera Venkatachalam, writing eleven months ago, describes her cinemagoing experience at the Boleyn Cinema as follows: “It’s an experience watching a movie in [a] local theatre in India where actually you are in London”. This comment in particular conflates the experience of cinemagoing in India with that of cinemagoing in East Ham.
The Boleyn Cinema and its “homely” or “personal” atmosphere
The patrons of the Boleyn Cinema often refer to the “homely” or “personal touch” of its cinema hall. This is explainable in terms of two basic factors that have characterized the theatre: firstly, and as mentioned in the section above, such “touch” is due to the prevailing “Indianness” of its atmosphere; secondly, and as has been discussed in examining the relationship between Asian-owned cinemas and those belonging to movie theatre chains, the Boleyn Cinema has been able to preserve a special type of “homeliness” given its “independent” status, something that has always allowed it to be organically tied to the community within which it has been rooted [such “homeliness”, in other words, has not been a product of a mere “adjustment” to the needs of the community, as has been the case of an “implanted” venue such as that of the Cineworld Cinema – cf. above].
We present here a number of sample comments made by patrons which point to such “homely” or “personal” atmosphere within the Boleyn venue:
A patron by the name of Kavitha R. wrote a review of the Boleyn Cinema in December 2015 [cf. http://tripadvisor.com.au], apparently at a time when the venue had had its facilities newly refurbished [an event that will be further discussed below]. Kavitha describes the Boleyn cinema hall as “cosy”, and one might wish to argue that such a description was due to the place’s recent refurbishment. And yet, Kavitha’s review does wish to relate the “cosy” atmosphere of the theatre to its “independence” – in that way, the patron wishes to indirectly contrast a cinema such as the Boleyn to chain cinemas such as Cineworld. This is how she puts it: “Very cosy cinema with the old Independent Cinema feel”. This statement seems to fully confirm [albeit with certain important caveats, as regards the “adjustive” practices of the Cineworld Cinema itself] what we have been observing thus far as regards the relationship between “specialized” Asian-owned cinemas and those owned by chains such as Cine-UK. It had been that “old”, local-grown ambience – and which carried with it a certain history – that would somewhat distinguish the Boleyn venue from whichever cinema chains.
Kavitha’s observation is of course very much reminiscent of that of Hasnath Kalam’s, which we have already quoted above. As we have seen, the latter patron had himself commented that the Boleyn Cinema, precisely because it is an “individual” [in the sense of an “independent”] theatre – and in contrast to the non-independent “corporate multiplexes” – offers its patron’s “the personal touch”.
Similarly, a patron by the name of Sruthi Patiballa, writing three years ago, has this to say of the Boleyn Cinema: “This is a small theatre, it’s more like a personal theatre”.
Given the fact that the Boleyn Cinema has been a somewhat “personal theatre”, the choice of movies it would decide to screen could in many cases be directly dependent on the needs and wishes of some of its more regular patrons at a particular point in time. Thus, patron Meera Venkatachalam writes: “Funny theatre where nice to watch a movie with only 5 members!!! Plays shows on our convenience and our choice…!!!” [my emph. – the reference to the number of patrons said to be present in the theatre on that particular occasion may be considered to be an exceptional case, as we shall further see below]. Pandering to the needs of a group of Boleyn patrons for the screening of a particular movie could of course lead to objections on the part of others constituting the theatre’s cinemagoers – there is no reason to assume that needs and wishes would always be uniform. This is perhaps why one patron by the name of Sai Krishna Basetti, writing nine months ago, would complain as follows: “Worst experience… they changes [sic] the shows as per their wish”. Ironically, it seems that the Boleyn Cinema’s “homely” atmosphere could have led to the type of squabbles one would encounter within whatever “family”.
The Boleyn Cinema’s audiences: families, their children, and friends
The “Indianness” and “homeliness” of the cinema’s atmosphere have gone hand in hand with a specific type of audience that has frequented the theatre – the single most important feature of such audience has been the Indian family unit – and usually the Indian extended family. It is also absolutely important to observe that the Boleyn Cinema has likewise been frequented by the children of Indian families, whatever be the age of such children and, usually, independently of what type of movie was to be screened. Also accompanying families have been the friends and/or acquaintances of families. While there may of course be exceptions to such type of audience, the prevalence of the family unit within the Boleyn Cinema hall is beyond doubt – as we shall see further below, most or even all researchers on the question of Asian cinemagoing in the UK would fully confirm this reality.
Of course, the predominance of the Indian family within the Boleyn Cinema’s audiences is a natural upshot of the fact that the family unit – and usually in its extended form – is a salient feature of East Ham’s “cultural clusters”, and which is the case for all ethnic-based “cultural clusters” that have come to settle in the various localities of the UK. The literature around this phenomenon is near endless – we may refer here to just two sources: [i] Roger Ballard, “South Asian Families”, in Rapoport, Fogarty and Rapoport (eds.), Families in Britain, London, Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1982; and [ii] the well-known and oft-mentioned study by Richard Berthoud, “Family formation in multicultural Britain: diversity and change”, in G.C. Loury, T. Modood and S.M. Teles (eds.), Ethnicity, Social Mobility, and Public Policy: Comparing the USA and UK, Cambridge University Press, 2005. Referring to an earlier version of Berthoud’s research work, Gary Young would write an article for The Guardian, [18.12. 2000] tellingly entitled as follows: “Asians fly the flag for traditional family life”.
We present here a few selected samples indicating the predominant presence of the Indian family within the audiences of the Boleyn Cinema:
Writing four years ago, a patron by the name of Awais Ajmal tells us the following regarding the Boleyn Cinema: “Alright place if you want to watch a Bollywood movie with your family at a very affordable price”.
Even more lucid is a comment made by patron Sudeer Sainulabdeen three years ago – he writes as follows [we may ignore the rather problematic use of the English language here, which in any case makes crystal-clear sense]: “Good to go with family n small kids… in other part of London if children cries they will tell you to go out… in this theatre they are not tell you to go out”. We have come across numerous Boleyn Cinema patrons who similarly testify to the fact that, unlike other cinemas in the London area, the Boleyn staff would allow children to be part of the audience, rarely if ever intervening in cases of behaviour that could disturb others in the cinema hall. On the other hand, and as we shall see, the Cineworld Cinema follows the exact same type of policy when screening Bollywood movies in its theatres.
We may also refer here to a comment made by Arpan Upadhayay, who writes that the Boleyn Cinema is “Good to watch movies and enjoy with family and friends”.
The Boleyn Cinema – a venue primarily for the locals of the East Ham region
That the Boleyn Cinema mainly attracts families with their children, as also family friends and acquaintances, simply points to the fact that the venue is a cultural hub for the locals of the region of East Ham and its environs.
To confirm the obvious, we present just two representative sample comments. Patron Madhavo Rao, writing three years ago, describes the Boleyn Cinema as a “Local area theatre”. And writing two years ago, patron Shabi Kose tells us that the Boleyn is a “Good Indian type cinema convenient for locals”.
The Boleyn Cinema as a venue for social events
As an “Indian type cinema” historically rooted in the “cultural clusters” of its community, the venue of the Boleyn Cinema has also functioned as a hub for the community’s various social events. We have already noted that, and according to Ken Roe [op. cit.], it would be in early-2014/early-2015 that the cinema’s twin screens in the stalls would be converted into a banquet hall – members of the community could henceforth hire the hall so as to hold mainly familial social events at a certain price [such events, however, would not only be family-based]. The Boleyn Cinema had therefore diversified its function as a venue beyond that of a cinema proper, something which – one may suppose – could never have applied to a chain cinema such as Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema.
In December 2015, patron Kavitha R. would note the following with respect to social events held at the Boleyn Cinema: “Group Discounts for Birthday Parties and large Association[s] at cheaper prices”. By the term “associations”, Kavitha may be referring, inter alia, to Asian entrepreneurial enterprises and their holding of work-related social events – this, however, cannot be confirmed.
A patron by the name of Christian Ebere Duru, writing three years ago, tells us that the Boleyn venue is “Good for organizing crusades”. It is possible that Duru may be referring to crusades of a religious nature [again, it is difficult to confirm this].
Patron Ray Vibes [this name most probably being a bogus moniker] gives us the following useful information as recorded two years ago – he writes of the Boleyn venue as follows: “This great place has got a wonderful hall for hire where you can use it for any event of your choice. I went there basically to attend my sister’s wedding ceremony and I tell you, it was great being there”. Also commenting two years ago, patron Pandya Bhavin tells us that the hall is a “Good place for wedding but not stunning”.
A patron who identifies himself/herself simply as “A”, and writing one year ago, tells us that the Boleyn hall is a “Decent wedding venue”. Finally, someone by the presumed name of Sian Bailey, and also writing one year ago, comments as follows: “I went here [to the Boleyn venue] for an event. The place is massive, very spacious. The toilets were incredibly small considering the size of the venue. Nice layout. The only thing that spoiled it for me was the nonexistent use of the air conditioning, compare [sic] to the amount of people who attended, very disappointing”.
The Boleyn Cinema – some general observations on the number of patrons it has usually attracted
Patron Shantan Devathi, writing three years ago, complains that the Boleyn Cinema is usually overcrowded. He tells us, inter alia, that the cinema’s theatres are inundated with “lots of crowds”.
Writing two years ago, a patron who identifies himself as Navaratn Bharti tells us that on the particular occasion when he visited the Boleyn its cinema halls were “less crowded”. The implication here seems to be that the cinema would be usually crowded.
Someone by the name of Norman Smith, who does not appear to be a Boleyn regular, nonetheless made the observation – one year ago – that the cinema attracts “Too much people”. In contrast, patron Anwar Faruqh, who visited the Boleyn Cinema eleven months ago, found the venue “Great but not so busy”.
The number of people that the Boleyn Cinema has usually attracted may be said to vary, depending on the occasion [or, most probably, depending on the movie that was being screened]. Generally speaking, however, one may say that its theatre halls have been rather packed.
The Boleyn Cinema – the condition of its premises and the quality of its operation
The locals’ positive disposition towards the Boleyn Cinema [its “homely” atmosphere, etc.] does not mean that many patrons would shy away from expressing particular complaints about the condition of Boleyn’s premises and the quality of its service. On the other hand, it is most probably true to say that the majority of patrons have either ignored or tolerated aspects of the cinema’s premises that may be said to be “objectively” problematic [and we may assume that, given the number of locals it has attracted through the years]. Generally speaking, we shall choose to concentrate our study on those who happen to be more vocal as regards the negative features of the cinema – it is such category of patrons that would allow us to attain a more realistic picture of the venue. We shall not of course disregard positive commentary.
Patron Kandimalla Chandrasekhar, writing six years ago, tells us of the great amount of money he had to spend so as to watch a Telugu film [cf. above, with respect to the special ticket prices applying to Telugu-language films] – and yet, he explains, when you pay that sum of money, “you except [viz. expect] at least [the cinema to be] clean, but this one has a lot of rubbish and dead rats coupled with broken chairs”.
Writing four years ago, a person who identifies himself as Chalapati Rao BV [and who does not appear to have been a Boleyn regular] writes as follows: “The worst cinema I have ever been to. The seats are horrible to sit in and very poorly managed as well. The direction of seating is not aligned to the screen and you never sit in the seat still. It is like a slide and you keep going down. My knees were aching so badly by the end of the cinema [viz. towards the end of the movie] and I would never like to go there again”.
The following comments were made three years ago:
- A non-regular patron signing as Kamran Na provides us with a very general, albeit rather negative, picture of the premises – he writes: “Don’t go there often. I believe the[y] have a hall they hire don’t sits [most probably means without seating] and a cinema upstairs. Been to the cinema 10 years ago when there was no A/C and never again”.
- Patron Madhavo Rao gives us a more positive picture of the premises, though also alludes to the question of viewing angle in at least one of the Boleyn’s cinema halls – he writes as follows: “Well maintained screen. Getting your seat backside left screen facing is good view”.
- Hasnath Kalam makes the following observations regarding, inter alia, the type of snacks served in the cinema, as also regarding seating arrangements [which seem to contradict some patron comments recorded above]: “Boleyn Cinema does not have stair free access [this point is not too clear] and there are no restaurants in the building. Hot and cold drinks along with cinema essentials like popcorn and crisps and chocolate are served here. Washroom is clean and the seating arrangements at the cinema is [sic] comfortable”. Kalam also provides people with practical information on how to get to the cinema – he writes: “Parking is available behind the theatre building and if you are travelling by public transport, you will be served by bus route 104, 58, 5, 115 and 147 to get there”.
- Patron Krishnan Valsan paints a rather shabby picture of the Boleyn – as he writes: “It was looking untidy old and damp, some seats were broken”.
- Critical observations made by Shantan Devathi are of special interest as they prompt the owner-manager of the Boleyn Cinema to respond directly. Devathi, whom we have quoted above as saying that the cinema is usually overcrowded, adds the following complaints: “… The ticketing is abysmal, poor hall management, very small screens…” The owner-manager’s response goes as follows [the language is a bit problematic, though intelligible throughout]: “Thank you very much for your valuable comment, as far as we know cinema is not for a few, our screen size is 13m width which is bigger than more UK cinemas screens. As u mentioned in your comment we had lots of crowd, if your state (abysmall, poor management, very small screen) is correct, we wouldn’t had that much precious customers”. One may interpret this response in more ways than one – yet still, it does confirm our suggestion that most Boleyn patrons would either ignore or tolerate the condition of the premises, a presumption based on the sheer volume of the cinema’s “precious customers” [at least according to the owner-manager of the Boleyn venue].
The next set of patron comments were recorded two years ago:
- Patron Sudhanshu D. gives us a brief and general description of the cinema, pointing to the old, “grand” style of the premises – he writes: “Didn’t realize this was a cinema. From outside, it shows a banquet hall board which is confusing. It’s a[n] old style cinema with grand stairs leading to first floor”. This picture of the cinema is confirmed by Poorna Chandra Rao N., who – as we have seen in our historical notes on the Boleyn Cinema – referred to the venue as an “old iconic” theatre. For the sake of interest, we may note that Sudhanshu also comments on the type of snacks served in the cinema – he informs us that “Food options are not much. Standard popcorn and drinks served to audience…”
- Patron Narayana Murthy Pemmaraju further provides us with a brief, general description of the Boleyn Cinema, pointing to some of the changes it has undergone through the years, as also to certain problematic features of its premises – this is what he has to say: “It was previously a very big cinema hall in East Ham playing Hindi and other South Indian movies. A few years back this was split into two halls. So the screen appears acentric facing one side. Sound system is horrible”. What appears to be a problematic sound system is also confirmed by Poorna Chandra Rao N., who tells us that the “sound quality need[s] latest technology” [such observations on the Boleyn’s sound system do not necessarily concur with those of other patrons].
- Comments made by patron Janaki Chitta are of special interest for at least two reasons. First and foremost, they represent precisely that type of patron who shall remain absolutely loyal to a particular cinema despite the serious objections he/she might have as regards the condition of its premises and the its quality of service. Secondly, Chitta ventures to contrast the prevailing conditions of her local cinema to those of other cinema venues in the UK [as we shall see further below, some patrons measure the quality of service at the Boleyn up against that of what they call “the British standard”]. This is what Janaki Chitta has to say: “To the owners of this theatre [:] the movie ticket price is not cheap. The only thing we ask for is decent sound system and basic things that now a days [sic] even remote villages have like seat numbering, screen actually being in the centre. Charge more if needed we will still come but shame on you” [my emph.].
The following set of patron comments were made exactly one year ago:
- Patron Feruz Ali very simply describes the Boleyn as “A very old cinema”.
- Patron Raghu Veer informs us that “the sound quality is amazing”. It is possible that the Boleyn Cinema had had its sound system improved following a general revamping of the premises [cf. below], and which would allow Veer to make the observation that he does. On the other hand, the patron goes on to raise the issue of seat numbering, as had Janaki Chitta two years ago – he writes: “Better they should start numbering for seats”.
- Patron Taraka Prabhu also writes, inter alia, of a well-functioning sound system: “Small, compact theatres with decent sound system”.
- Patron Satyavada Raviteja notes the following: “Seating is ok not 100% comfortable with screen orientation. But quality is fine”.
- Patron Sash Fernando wishes to emphasize that the Boleyn Cinema – being what he describes as a “proper” hub for people of Asian origins [a “desi” venue, cf. above] – does not frustrate patrons with long sessions projecting commercials prior to the screening of the movie itself, as do theatres belonging to cinema chains. He writes: “This is a proper desi cinema. Very fast turn around times, so the films start on time, not like the other chains, where there are 30 mins of advertizing to go through”. Of course, not all patrons would agree that films screened at the Boleyn Cinema would always commence on time – that, however, would be more the result of inefficient operation than due to the amount of time devoted to commercials.
- Patrons writing one year ago, and as quoted thus far, all seem to find at least some positive features either in the premises of the Boleyn Cinema or as regards its operation [alternatively, as in the case of Feruz Ali, they can maintain a neutral stance]. In contrast, a non-regular patron by the name of Thalha Choudhury is scathingly critical of the condition of the cinema [even to the extent that, in his case, there remains no sign of at least some grudging loyalty towards it]. Having visited the theatre so as to watch a particular Hindi movie that was not being screened elsewhere, he writes: “Very disappointed with dirty cloth seats. It’s run down and neglected. It’s worth paying little more somewhere else for a better experience”.
- Without necessarily revoking patron loyalty and attachment to the cinema, quite a number of Boleyn customers insist on expressing a fairly trenchant criticism with respect to the condition and operation of the premises. Pasupathi M., who has been a Boleyn Cinema regular and much appreciative of the fact that the theatre has always been screening South Indian movies, would nonetheless agree with Choudhury that seating can be rather problematic – he tells us that “Seats are quite uncomfortable for sitting though”.
- Patron Ravi Goriparthi can be as critical – he writes: “Wish they would clean the theatre between shows”.
- Similarly, patron Edrees Yasini observes that “Staff were rude and cinema was stinky”.
- We have noted above how a patron such as Sash Fernando would be supportive of the Boleyn Cinema given its “proper desi” nature, something which would certainly complement the theatre’s “homely” atmosphere. And yet, it is Fernando himself who points to the limits of such “homelike” attributes as regards the theatre – he advises potential customers as follows: “Can’t take your own food, they will check your bags, so hide well if you do want [to] take food in from outside…”
- The following sample comment, also recorded a year ago, was made by patron Ajay Muthureddy – it seems to more or less summarize the overall condition and operation of the Boleyn premises, and reads as follows: “When you don’t have better option, you deal with the one available. This one is neither bad nor anything to mention specially about”. Like so many other Boleyn patrons, nonetheless, Muthureddy is certainly thankful that the Boleyn Cinema has always been there to unfailingly screen “regional movies”.
We shall complete this survey of patron comments on the premises of the Boleyn Cinema by presenting the following samples made a number of months ago:
- A patron who identifies himself as Anushan made the following comment eleven months ago – he writes that the Boleyn Cinema is a “Good place to watch movie[s]. But need a improvement [sic] inside”.
- Also writing eleven months ago, a patron by the name of Dhilip Kumar gives us a fairly detailed picture of the Boleyn Cinema’s premises and operation – we read as follows: “Show didn’t start on time, much more delay with the actual time mentioned [contrast to the Sash Fernando comment above]. No seat booking available, so you have to beat the queue for getting a good seat. Also they are making us to stand out until they’re ready with the show. Coming to the quality inside, screen is much smaller and seating not really comfortable for the screen view. And the surrounding sound is not up to the mark. Overall it’s an average kind of cinema with no advanced features equipped”.
- Writing ten months ago, patron Tareq Hoque simply tells us that “It was cold”.
- A patron by the name of Vivak Subramaniam Paneerselvam, writing nine months ago, gives us the following information on the Boleyn cinema: “Till 4th seat proper view of the screen. Sound and picture quality is good”.
- Patron Sai Krishna Basetti, who nine months ago had written to complain that the Boleyn management “changes the shows as per their wish” [cf. above], goes on to add: “I don’t understand the purpose of online booking. Shows never start on time. If you have a problem, you never know whom to ask…”
- Patron Abdul Monem, who also comments on the Boleyn Cinema nine months ago, is especially scathing – he writes: “They are not professional! People stick chewing gum on the seats and they never ever check after the show! They just making money and doing nothing! I never recommend it…”
- Commenting eight months ago, patron Asjana Tariq expresses impressions that are paradoxically much more positive – she writes: “Nice friendly staff. Tickets are always available. Toilets are spotless”.
- Finally, and also commenting eight months ago, a patron who identifies himself as Murali V., notes simply as follows: “Poor sound quality. Must be improved”.
The revamping of the Boleyn Cinema
As briefly touched on above, the premises of the Boleyn Cinema would undergo a certain restructuring and revamping by 2014-2015. Patron Kavitha writes in December 2015 of the theatre’s “Newly refurbished facilities” [cf. https://www.tripadvisor.com.au, op.cit.]. The general revamping would also, it seems, be accompanied by an upgrading of the quality of staff service – Kavitha may therefore speak of “Extremely polite and helpful staff”. Further, the revamping would also mean that the management of the Boleyn would pay greater attention to matters of hygiene within the premises – Kavitha, for instance, writes of “Clean toilets”.
Similarly, writing three years ago, a patron by the name of Vijay Kumar tells us that the Boleyn Cinema “Looks better after recent refurbishment”.
Finally, it is of some interest to note that patron Venkata Chaitanya Tantravahi, writing two years ago, tells us that “The revamped seating is better than many of the big brand cinemas”.
There are two points that need to be made here with respect to the revamping of the Boleyn Cinema by 2015. Firstly, this attempt at restructuring and somewhat renewing the premises takes place precisely at a time when the competition with the chain cinemas is reaching its maximum intensity [cf. our observations above with respect to the competition between the “independent” cinemas and the multiplex cinema chains]. It was most probably in response to such competition that the management of the Boleyn Cinema undertook, not only to revamp the premises, but to also diversify the venue’s operation through the establishment of the banquet hall. Secondly, the attempt at revamping the cinema did not seem to have made much of a difference in the eyes of many of its patrons – as we have seen above in presenting fairly recent patron reviews of the cinema, complaints about the quality of the premises and the cinema’s manner of operation would not really abate much.
The Boleyn Cinema versus the “British standard” of cinemas
Patron Venkata Chaitanya Tantravahi, as quoted above, is of the opinion that the Boleyn Cinema – at least as regards its revamped seating – would surpass many of “the big brand cinemas”, by which he must mean the UK multiplexes. Such an assessment seems to be an overestimation, most probably expressive of the sentimental affection and loyalty that so many East Ham locals harboured for their neighbourhood cinema hall. As an “independent”, Asian-owned cinema, however, the Boleyn Cinema would never really be able to match the standards of the multiplex chain cinemas. That is understandable, given the limited budget of the Asian-owned enterprises in comparison to cinemas owned by companies such as Cine-UK. While local patrons would – out of necessity – maintain their loyalty to the Boleyn, many would at the same time complain that their hub came nowhere near to meeting the standards of other cinema halls operating in the UK. Often enough, we come across patrons contrasting the operation of the Boleyn premises to what they would call the “British standard”.
We may here present the following representative samples indicative of just such wish to contrast the “independent” neighbourhood theatre to others in the region of London or elsewhere:
- A patron who identifies himself as Hari Hara Kumar M., and writing one year ago, made the following comment regarding the operation of the Boleyn Cinema: “Average. Not to the standards of London”.
- Also writing one year ago, patron Jay Karma notes: “Building and facilities are ok… but need to keep British standard…”
- This so-called “British standard” would presumably only be met in the UK chain cinemas, and thus we find Boleyn patrons contrasting the operation of the Asian-owned enterprise to that of Ilford’s Cineworld. One such case may be that of patron Raghu Manchambatla, who eight months ago would make the following observations [though not all of which are lucid, given language problems]: “I wasn’t expecting a Cineworld experience but the screen is facing the right of the theatre! By chance if you’re forced to sit on left, you’ll hate for sitting in. The video quality is better not talked about. It’s the worst part of the cinema! It was dark and dull. The 4K quality they are shot the video in theatres looked like a cam print exploded on a massive screen. All in all terrible experience”.
Manchambatla’s critical observations regarding the operation of the Boleyn Cinema are based on a comparison with that of the “Cineworld experience” generally, though may also be referring to the Ilford branch itself. To the extent that the latter applies, such a comparison would be an oversimplification. While Ilford’s Cineworld multiplex would most definitely come closer to meeting the “British standard” of cinemas, it too would be beset with a variety of problems at times reminiscent of those of the Boleyn venue. As we shall see below in discussing the condition and operation of the Cineworld Cinema premises at Ilford, it could generally be said that multiplexes screening Bollywood films for ethnic “cultural clusters” would themselves be inferior in operation to those multiplexes that screened Hollywood movies [or movies produced by other film industries of the Western world] for White Britons [the reasons for this will hopefully become apparent as we explore exactly what happens within Ilford’s Cineworld movie theatres while screening a Bollywood movie].
The Boleyn Cinema – ticket prices
Above, we had examined the relationship between a person’s socio-economic position and his/her choice of cinema hall. And we had, within that context, contrasted the ticket pricing policies of Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema to that of the Boleyn Cinema. It is again within such context that we shall now further focus on the Boleyn’s ticket pricing policies in particular, examining the comments of patrons regarding ticket prices. Keeping in mind that the issue of socio-economic position vis-à-vis choice of cinema is especially complex, we shall not attempt to draw any general conclusions. Rather, we may simply let local [and other] patrons speak for themselves: recording their various reactions seems to be more useful here than indulging in theoretical – and, more often than not, dogmatic – abstractions. We present the following patron commentary recorded through the years:
- As already noted [in discussing the condition of the Boleyn premises], patron Kandimalla Chandrasekhar – who writes six years ago – complains about the unusually high ticket prices one has to pay so as to watch a Telugu-language movie. In contrast to the usual ticket price for adults [£5.00-£6.00], Chandrasekhar tells us that “you are spending 10 to 15 pounds for a Telugu cinema”.
- On the other hand, and writing five years ago, patron Kavitha R. notes that the Boleyn Cinema is “The cheapest place in London to watch an Indian movie”. And he goes on to write of “Unbelievable bargain prices of £5 and £6 for tickets”. To complement such “bargain prices”, there is also “Free parking at the back [of the cinema]”.
- Patron Ayub Mundekat, writing four years ago, informs us of the Boleyn’s “… cheap tickets, offering discounts…”
- Writing three years ago, patron Hasnath Kalam tells us that “the ticket price is unbelievably cheap”. Also writing three years ago, patron Madhavo Rao – who must be referring to the screening of big-budget Bollywood movies or perhaps Telugu-language movies at the Boleyn – does not wish to complain about the unusually high cost of ticket prices for such occasions. As he puts it: “Worth the cost of 10 [pounds] per movie for adults and 5 [pounds] for children”.
- Two years ago, patron Shahbaz Raja simply notes that the Boleyn Cinema offers “Very cheap ticket[s]”.
All of the following patron comments were recorded exactly one year ago:
- Patron Arpan Upadhayay simply informs us that the Boleyn Cinema is the locality’s “budget movie hall” for family and friends who wish to watch Bollywood movies.
- Patron Arun Raj tells us that the Boleyn’s “… Cost of ticket is affordable”.
- Patron Taraka Prabhu writes of “low ticket prices”.
- Patron Haji K. finds that the Boleyn Cinema is “very cheap”.
- Patron Sash Fernando confirms that “The prices are cheap £6 per person, can’t argue with that”.
- A patron who identifies himself/herself as Gopi informs us that the Boleyn Cinema [which is presented as an “average theatre”] offers the “Lowest ticket price for Tamil movies”. The patron must be comparing Boleyn ticket prices with those of other theatres in London, most probably the multiplexes.
- Patron Kiran Edem, on the other hand, confirms what has been noted above as regards Boleyn ticket prices for watching Telugu-language movies – he writes that “They charge a lot, a lot for Telugu movies” [he adds, by the way, that “the experience is very poor”]. The unusually high cost of ticket prices for Telugu-language movies may be explained in terms of the fact that the Boleyn Cinema was one of the very few theatres in the London area that actually screened that particular sub-genre of movie – viz. Tollywood [cf., above, regarding observations on this fact made by patrons such as Sijo Jacob and Narayana Murthy Pemmaraju]. Edem’s comment on the pricing of tickets for Telugu movies also confirms the reality that the Boleyn Cinema’s ticket pricing policy could be, in contrast to that of Cineworld Cinema, rather idiosyncratic: we have noted the cinema’s ticket price variation, depending on the movie being screened.
- Such price variation is further confirmed by patron Ravi Goriparthi, who asks: “Why are the ticket prices not fixed and always different?”
The following comments regarding Boleyn Cinema ticket pricing were made eleven months ago:
- Patron Jonathan Old makes the simple statement that Boleyn is a “Cheap cinema”. For him, this fact seems to overshadow whatever negative features characterize the venue – as he says [and which of course also relates to questions regarding the condition and operation of the premises – cf. above]: “Show started late, and the showroom was a bit dirty (popcorn under every seat), but for the price, it was a great experience” [my emph.]. We see here that patrons’ toleration of the venue’s conditions of operation is also explainable in terms of the cinema’s ticket pricing policy [and which could to some extent point to a relationship between choice of cinema and class position and/or income bracket].
- Observations made by patron Sivanantham Sivakumar seem to more or less echo those of Jonathan Old. He writes: “The price is very low and the screen and seat and the audio was perfect for the cheapest price. The seats are normal like all cinemas and you can move the seats in screen 1 (I am not sure about the other screens)” [my emph.]. Again, one suspects that the patron is rather gracious as regards the condition and operation of the theatre given its ticket pricing policy.
The following comments were recorded nine months ago:
- Patron Jaimin Soni tells us that the Boleyn Cinema allows locals to “experience” Bollywood type movies “in [sic] affordable price[s]”.
- In contrast to what seems to be the majority of Boleyn locals, the patron who identifies himself as Srinevas VoilA does not seem to think that ticket prices are cheap, and cannot therefore be said to justify the condition of the venue’s premises. He writes that although he appreciates the fact that movies “in foreign tongues” are screened at the Boleyn, yet still, “the service, quality of seats and overall movie experience leaves a lot of room for improvement for the price that is charged”. We may nonetheless assume that VoilA cannot possibly be referring to that £5.00 [or £6.00] ticket price usually charged at the Boleyn, it being comparatively very low – it is possible that VoilA is talking of that special category of movies for which Boleyn management would increase ticket prices at whim.
Finally, and confirming yet again Boleyn’s ticket price policy regarding what management deemed to be a special category of movies, patron Srinivas Reddy – writing eight months ago – notes: “… high ticket prices for big movies”.
We shall end this survey of patron comments on the Boleyn Cinema’s ticket price policy by further considering a number of comments that contrast such policy to that of Ilford’s Cineworld.
Patron Gnans S., who is writing three years ago, makes the following comparison: “You get what you pay for. Whilst cinema chains charge £11 per ticket they [at the Boleyn Cinema] charge only £6”. For Gnans S., such discrepancy in the price of a ticket is not the only reason why the Boleyn Cinema is a “good place” – added to the question of ticket price, the Boleyn is in any case special because it screens “regional films” that are not available elsewhere [cf. above].
Writing two years ago, patron Sudhanshu D. simply observes that “Price [at the Boleyn] is half of what you will pay in Cineworld”. Also writing two years ago, patron Melhi Yabesh, who “loves” the Boleyn Cinema for its specific “Indian” ambience, notes: “Worth the £5 ticket price compared to the overpriced Cineworld N/w [viz. network]…”
A patron who identifies himself as Prasanth MP, writing one year ago, compares the ticket prices of the Boleyn Cinema to those of other cinemas in the London area, including the case of Cineworld – he writes: “Ticket price is comparatively low than Cineworld/Odeon/Vue etc.” We cannot be certain as to which particular Odeon and Vue cinema theatres Prasanth MP is referring to – it is possible that in the case of the former, he may be referring to Odeon Barking, along Longbridge Road, Barking [and which would take approximately three minutes by subway to get to it from East Ham]; in the case of the latter, he may be referring to the Vue Cinema along Montfichet Road, Westfield Stratford [and which would take approximately fifteen minutes by subway to get to it from East Ham]. Finally, and also writing one year ago, patron Pasupathi tells us that “Ticket rates [at the Boleyn Cinema] are much cheaper than Cineworld and other chain of cinemas here”.
The Cineworld Cinema: some further introductory notes on the venue
Both in our examination of the relationship between “independent” Asian cinemas and the multiplex cinema chains, as also in our brief historical notes on East Ham’s cinema venues, we had recorded a number of important facts pertaining to the Cineworld Cinema, located in the environs of the East London region under investigation. Before we undertake an empirical investigation of the Cineworld Cinema along lines parallel to those of the Boleyn Cinema, it would be useful to present here some further introductory notes on Ilford’s multiplex chain cinema. To do that, we shall again have to rely on the work of Lucia Krämer [op. cit.].
The first note, concerning not only the case of the Ilford branch itself, but UK’s Cineworld multiplex chain as a whole, confirms that South Asian movies have become stably embedded into the cinema programmes of the chain, and have thereby achieved an “established status” within many Cineworld branch theatres. Krämer explains as follows: “Cineworld… has a link on its web site that leads specifically to the South Asian films in its programme. (Like Odeon, it has renamed this category ‘Bollywood and South Asian Cinemas’.) Again, this presence underlines the stable and established status of Indian films in the Cineworld programme. However, a closer look reveals that their screenings of South Asian films, too, are restricted to a limited number of sites. All in all, about fifteen of the eighty-two Cineworld sites schedule South Asian mainstream films on a regular basis (though not necessarily each week), and some ten show them occasionally”.
Given its particular location – that of “Little India” – the Ilford Cineworld Cinema has set aside venues that are absolutely regular – and definitely not merely occasional – in the screening of Bollywood films [cf., inter alia, The List, https://www.film.list.co.uk; Ilford Recorder, https://www.ilfordrecorder.co.uk, 07.12.2020]. The second note we therefore wish to make is the following as regards Ilford’s Cineworld in particular [but which also includes the London Fetham cinema] – Krämer continues: “The London Ilford and London Fetham cinemas take pride of place in this line-up. They have in recent years also hosted several UK premièrs of Hindi films as well as promotional meet-and-greet events with big stars, thus creating for themselves a profile of being Bollywood showcases” [my emph.].
The Cineworld Cinema: some notes on its location
Writing four years ago, a Cineworld Cinema patron by the name of Arjun Sandhu tells us that he had spent “Brilliant cinema minutes” at the venue, which is located in “Ilford’s shopping area”.
Lukshan Sharvaswaran, a Cineworld patron writing three years ago, expresses his enthusiasm about both the “community” that circumscribes the Cineworld venue and the venue itself – he writes: “Great place for movies, great community…”
Also writing three years ago, Lloyd Hutchinson – who must be an outsider to the Asian community of the locality [and thus most probably a non-Bollywood fan] – informs us as follows about the Cineworld Cinema and its environs: “Nice cinema with all the latest movies but the surrounding area has loads of empty shops…” [By the way, the case of Lloyd Hutchinson allows us to make the following clarificatory note: We shall see below that a number of comments with reference to the Cineworld Cinema in particular have been made by non-Asians. It is possible that some of these patrons may have visited the venue so as to watch a Hollywood movie in one of its many screens – their comments therefore must be seen as expressing general impressions of the multiplex venue as a whole].
Finally, and again writing three years ago, a comment made by Cineworld patron Mohammed Zaman seems to confirm Lloyd Hutchinson’s observations – he notes: “Loads of shops closed around it [viz. the cinema venue]… The surrounding street feels dirty and unsafe”. The apparent lack of safety may be compared to what we have noted above as concerns Barking Road, along which the Boleyn Cinema is situated.
The types of movies usually screened at the Cineworld Cinema
Patron Abdul Mohammed, writing three years ago, informs us as follows: “Due to Ilford been [sic] largely Asian community some of the Hollywood movies not shown here because of Bollywood movies”. This simple comment allows us to make the following three observations: [i] It is the demographic morphology of the locality that determines the types of movies usually screened at this multiplex chain cinema [and cf. above as regards Cine-UK’s decision to focus on ethnic-based “cultural clusters” as its catchment area, and how such clusters would determine cinemagoing practices within Ilford’s Cineworld]; [ii] It is somewhat implied that Asians may also be watching Hollywood movies – our readings of the various sources investigating the cinemagoing practices of Asian “cultural clusters” in the UK certainly confirms this. On the other hand, it is also evident in the literature that non-Asians in the UK – especially White Britons – do not watch Bollywood movies [we shall be discussing this further below]; [iii] Having said that, it is quite obvious that not all of Cineworld’s eleven screens would be screening Bollywood films.
A patron of the Cineworld Cinema who identifies himself as Subramanian M., and also writing three years ago, tells us that the venue “Plays Tamil movies a lot”.
Writing two years ago, patron Kunal Godbole comments as follows with respect to the types of movies screened at the Cineworld venue: “It has a good range of Hindi and Indian regional cinemas [viz. movies] like Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, etc.” This comment allows us to qualify assertions made by some commentators [such as Narayana Murthy Pemmaraju or Kiran Edem – cf. above] that the Boleyn Cinema has been the only venue in the region screening Telugu movies.
The following patron comments were all recorded exactly one year ago:
- A Cineworld patron who wishes to maintain his anonymity and presents himself/herself as The Londoners Story, tells us the following: “They have all variety of movies, from Hindi, Urdu, to Tamil, etc.”
- Patron Ajay Vinogithan writes: “I watched a Tamil movie on Monday screen 10”. This comment is of special interest in that it verifies Krämer’s suggestion that a multiplex cinema such as Cineworld has allocated a “stable” and “established status” to Bollywood movies, so much so that the screening of such movies does not only take place over weekends: as we see here, Vinogithan was able to watch a Tamil movie on a Monday. Of course, his comment could also be said to confirm that it is only particular screens of the Cineworld venue that exhibit Bollywood movies [the balance as to the screening of Bollywood movies in relation to those of Hollywood is not clarified in this comment].
- Patron Ranjan Rao tells us – in rather problematic language – that the Cineworld Cinema “Had got many screens and does of many Indian movies, may be the most in London”. Rao’s comment seems to overlook the case of the Boleyn Cinema.
- Further clarifying that the screens of the Cineworld venue can exhibit both Bollywood and non-Bollywood movies, a patron who signs as Iceze writes as follows: “Good cinema. Shows Asian as well as English films”. To the extent that the venue is “good” because it shows both Bollywood and non-Bollywood movies, we may assume that Iceze enjoys watching both types of movies, and both of which are screened in the Cineworld theatres.
The following two comments were made nine months ago:
- In rather problematic English, patron Rohith Rahman writes that the Cineworld Cinema “considers the area demands as it is Asian heavy. More Asian films than standard”. Of course, Rahman is explaining that the management of the Cineworld Cinema has to respond to the “demands” of the locality for Bollywood movies, it being a locality that is “Asian heavy”. This observation further confirms that a multiplex chain cinema in the UK has no choice but to adjust to the demands of the “cultural clusters” within which it has chosen to operate.
- Patron Charulatha Sanmathi’s comment also confirms that the Cineworld Cinema exhibits both English-language movies and Bollywood movies; and she further confirms the fact that the multiplex cinema has to adjust to the demands of the locality, thereby allocating a special “status” and regularity to the Bollywood genre. This is what she writes: “Apart from English movies, Indian movies are released regularly on the same day as Indian release and we saw two movies”. We need note that the Cineworld Cinema can release Bollywood films on the exact same day as happens in India itself, something which more or less echoes Krämer’s observation that the Ilford venue hosts UK premièrs of Hindu films [cf. above].
The final two patron comments were recorded eight months ago:
- A patron who signs as Dimple Jom informs us that the Cineworld Cinema is “A place where almost all the Malayalam films releases [sic]”. We have noted above that the Boleyn Cinema itself screens films of the Mollywood genre.
- A commentator by the name of Kate Jackson – who does not seem to belong to the Asian “cultural clusters” of the region – makes a number of extremely interesting observations, all of which seem to point to the near-exclusivity of Bollywood shows at the Cineworld venue, this time suggesting an actual imbalance in the screening of Bollywood movies vis-à-vis Hollywood movies. While she does not deny the fact that Cineworld also exhibits English-language movies, her comment does emphasize the dominance of the Bollywood genre, which she explains in terms of the demographic morphology of the area. In the latter sense at least, she fully verifies comments made by patrons such as Abdul Mohammed and Rohith Rahman as recorded above. In any case, one may say that her observations, albeit not really neutral at all, do more or less summarize much of what other patrons have to say regarding the type of movies screened at the Cineworld Cinema. This is what Kate Jackson writes: “Finally, there is a severe lack of mainstream films [viz. Hollywood] shown here. I appreciate Ilford has a large Asian community, but there should be more variety as if you’re not into Bollywood films, you have to go much further afield to watch films. In the week I am writing this, there are 12 different films being shown, only three of which aren’t Bollywood. They don’t show the majority of the new Hollywood films, with one of the other three being a Nick Jr’s film [viz. kid’s movies], and it is often the same films showing over and over again”. Need we say that such observations – made by someone who is most probably a White Briton – point to cinemagoing practices that are essentially segregated along ethnic-lines [we shall have to return to this most telling reality regarding the ethnic-based cinemagoing – and thus ethnic-based cultural – practices of UK’s “cultural clusters”, and the wider implications of this].
Patron sentiments on the type of movies screened at the Cineworld Cinema
Thus far – and apart from the rather subjective comment made by Kate Jackson above – we have attempted to present the type of movies screened at the Cineworld Cinema based on fairly “neutral” comments made by the cinema’s patrons. Here [and as in the case of the Boleyn Cinema], we shall focus on samples of comments that express a certain sentiment regarding the type of movies watched at the Cineworld venue. Such sentiments are mainly expressed by locals.
Writing six years ago, patron Jessen R., while complaining that the Cineworld’s ticket prices can be too high, nonetheless admits that the type of movies shown at the venue is rather pleasing – we read: “Ok, the selection of films is quite good, with most Bollywood/Tamil films with English subtitles”.
Patron Vaibhav Sharma, who writes five years ago, tells us that he would visit Ilford’s Cineworld venue specifically so as to watch Bollywood movies – he writes: “… only time I go there is to watch Bollywood movie and if it is not played in 02”. By “02”, Sharma must be referring to the multiplex cinema known as Cineworld – The 02 Greenwich, located in the Peninsula Square, Greenwich Peninsula, South East London [it is eleven minutes by subway from the region of East Ham]. Judging by its name, this Greenwich theatre must also belong to the Cineworld chain. We should also note how Vaibhav Sharma tends to be devoted to the watching of Bollywood movies.
A patron by the name of Rajaram Ramakrishnan, writing four years ago, expresses his affinity to Tamil-language movies, as also his annoyance at having to watch movie trailers in the Hindi language, which he [and his company] fails to understand. This comment is of some interest as it points to cultural divisions within UK’s Asian “cultural clusters” [below, we shall have to further explore the heterogeneity of cinemagoing audiences within “cultural clusters” themselves]. Ramakrishnan writes as follows: “We went to watch a Tamil (language) movie and was shown trailers of Hindi (different language) movies which really annoyed us. Since we can’t understand that language and the main movie is of different language, there is no reason to play those different language (Hindi) movie trailers. We can understand English and so playing English movie trailers would have been the best option if Cineworld don’t have any upcoming new Tamil movie trailers. But playing the trailers of a language that we don’t understand is really disappointing and I hope Cineworld chain understands this”.
The following Cineworld patron comments were all made exactly two years ago:
- Patron Aamar Nath, who seems to be a resident of India but had stayed in London for one year, would come to love the venue for its screening of Indian movies – he writes, inter alia, that “Cineworld cinema is one of the best things [that] happened in London”.
- Patron Subhendu Mukherjee writes as follows: “Nice multiplex. Best in East London after 02 [with respect to “02”, cf. above]. I love it because this screens many Hindi/Bollywood movies”.
- A patron who identifies himself as Raghavendra Av, clearly echoes Subhendu Mukherjee’s sentiments concerning the Ilford Cineworld venue when he writes as follows: “One of [my] favourite hide out [sic] to watch Indian movies”.
- The idea that the Cineworld Cinema constitutes a “hideout” for locals is further expressed by patron Arikt Jain, at least judging by this patron’s regular visits to the venue – we read: “Have come to this one many times, as is only one of the very few cinemas that showcase Hindi/Bollywood movies for more than a week”.
- As in the case of other Cineworld patrons, Shahidul Islam points to the fact that the venue does not exhibit much of English-language movies – but he nonetheless feels that that would be pleasing to locals who in any case only wish to watch Indian movies. He writes: “Doesn’t have many English movies on… Guess it’s good if you [are] looking to watch Indian movies as most of the showing are [sic] for Indian movies”. Reminiscent of other comments recorded above, one is here given the impression that the functioning of a multiplex chain cinema such as Ilford’s Cineworld would not differ much from that of the Asian-owned Boleyn Cinema – whatever their differences, both would come to function as cultural hubs around which specific “cultural clusters” would bond, or would further their bonds on a regular basis [much of what we shall be further discussing below as regards the Cineworld Cinema would seem to verify such a general observation].
- Our final sample comment which has been recorded two years ago confirms that the Cineworld venue – precisely as in the case of the Boleyn Cinema – would attract patrons of particular “cultural clusters” whatever the conditions of operation prevailing therein [Cineworld conditions shall be examined in some detail below]. Patrons would tolerate whatever conditions so long as the movies being screened were expressive of the ethnic-based cultural proclivities of the members of the locality. Thus, a local patron by the name of Tanzirul Hasan, who describes the conditions of operation within the Cineworld venue in a manner that is absolutely surprising for a chain cinema belonging to the all-powerful Cine-UK, nonetheless admits that he would visit the theatre so as to watch a Hindi movie. Hasan writes: “This is probably one of the worst cinemas. The seats are always dirty and smells at times for not being cleaned properly. I never go there, but sometimes some Hindi movies only released there. For that reason I go there” [my emph.].
The following patron comments were made exactly one year ago:
- Patron Imran Haq feels that, although Ilford’s Cineworld venue is “dated” if compared to other venues of the chain, it nonetheless “does show Indian movies so that’s good”.
- Local patron Kailash Solanki simply tells us that the Cineworld is his “favourite” cinema as it screens all types of movies, again confirming that UK’s Asian audiences may also watch non-Bollywood movies once in a while. Solanki writes as follows about what types of movies Cineworld exhibits: “Always plenty of showtimes for all types of movies… Bollywood, Hollywood, children’s…”
- Patron Siddharth Venkataraman expresses his sentiments about the types of movies screened at Cineworld as follows: “Really good cinema theatre for movie folks, especially Indians”.
- Similarly, patron Durga Sri writes: “Our favourite place in London for weekends”. This comment – showing an obvious emotional attachment to the cinema – also points to a certain “homely atmosphere” that would prevail within the Cineworld theatres over weekends [we shall be examining the question of “atmosphere” further below].
- A patron who signs as SonicDaSpeedyGod comments: “Nice time for movies in all languages”. The patron must be referring to the different sub-genres constituting Bollywood movies, all of which – as we know – come in the various languages of the sub-continent [he/she may of course also be referring to English-language films as well].
- Cineworld patron Bilal Ail writes: “Good film I like is Punjabi film”.
The following two comments were recorded nine months ago:
- Patron Debashish Mukherjee expresses his sentiments about the Cineworld venue as follows: “Good for Asians in the UK. Lots of Bollywood movies screened”.
- Patron Vibha Ramesh writes: “I came to see a Kannada movie! Please continue showing Kannada movies…!”
The final two comments we recorded eight months ago:
- Patron Sam Red simply informs us that Ilford’s Cineworld is a “Good place to watch Indian films…”
- Zarin Ali, who must be a non-local patron, tells us that we should “trust” Ilford’s venue for its consistency in showing Bollywood movies – she writes: “Pretty cinema. If by chance your closest Cineworld isn’t showing a Bollywood film, trust Ilford Cineworld to be showing it”. This comment, in its conciseness, confirms that the Cineworld venue at Ilford has functioned so as to satisfy the cultural needs of Asian “cultural clusters” [and cf. Krämer’s observation above, regarding the “stable” and “established status” of Indian films in the Cineworld programmes] – it of course also confirms that such needs on the part of the Asian “cultural clusters” are absolutely real.
The Cineworld Cinema’s “familial” and/or “homely atmosphere”
The stereotypical picture of the multiplex chain cinema is that it is “impersonal” in its service and “atmosphere”. Such type of businesslike detachment from patrons, however, would apply to cinema venues that do not directly serve the interests of a particular community – attracting customers from a wide variety of localities, the cultural physiognomy of audiences would be diffuse and dissipated in a manner reflective of the diversity of cinema patrons. Such diversity of patrons would not lend itself to a “familial” atmosphere within the typical theatres of chain cinemas. In terms of such general framework, Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema is something of a paradox, at least in the sense that it cannot be said to at all conform to such stereotype picture.
Above, we had quoted Hasnath Kalam, a patron of the Boleyn Cinema, who would place much emphasis on the “personal touch” of a venue run by Asians and specifically for Asians – such “touch” could only but have directly reflected the cultural psyche of East Ham’s Asian “cultural clusters”. Having noted Kalam’s important observation, we had also said that we would need to investigate the extent to which even an “implant” as was Ilford’s Cineworld would have to adjust to the cultural needs of the community circumscribing its functioning as a venue. Such necessary adjustment may be said to be evident in a number of ways, one of which is the “family” or “homely atmosphere” prevailing within the Cineworld Cinema – and that, despite its multiplex chain character. Here, we shall present a number of sample patron comments verifying the exceptional manner in which a multiplex chain such as Ilford’s Cineworld had had to function while screening Bollywood movies – or, perhaps more accurately, found itself functioning while screening such movies, in the sense that a very specific “atmosphere” would be imposed on it by its regular Asian patrons.
To begin with, we may say that the “family” or “homely atmosphere” prevailing within the Cineworld venue may be put down to the fact that many of its customers have been regulars over a very long period of time. Consider the following representative case of a patron by the name of Mayouran Jeyakumar, writing four years ago: “Have been going here for 14 years. Really good service…” In 2017, when this comment was recorded, Ilford’s Cineworld had been in operation for fifteen years – Mayouran Jeyakumar, it seems, must have literally grown up with the operation of the Cineworld venue. It is not surprising, therefore, that the patron has simply come to accept the cinema’s “really good service”.
Jai Prakash, writing a year ago, tells us that he had visited Ilford’s Cineworld so as to watch a particular Bollywood movie. Apparently unfamiliar with what happens within that venue when a Bollywood film is screened, Jai Prakash was disturbed by the fact that patrons were unruly, “Thinking that they are watching movie at home” [my emph.].
Also writing one year ago, a patron who simply identifies himself/herself as Sumjim tells us that “We visit this place twice a week at least”. The sheer frequency of visits to Cineworld suggests that the venue must operate as a “home” to both Sumjim and his/her companions.
Writing eleven months ago, patron Rachel Bamouni further confirms the frequency of visits to the Cineworld venue on the part of many locals, and especially so on Sundays – she tells us that “We’re there every Sunday” [and cf. the comment made by Durga Sri above, who has noted that Cineworld is a “favourite place” over weekends].
Patron Waqi Coder, who records his comment nine months ago, expresses the following sentiments about the Cineworld venue and its staff – he writes: “Amazing staffs [sic]. I love them. It feels like family. Entertainment top of entertainment” [my emph.].
Finally, writing two months ago, a patron who signs his comment as Big Daddy Singh makes the following interesting – and all too telling – observation: “One time I saw a customer come in with her pajamas like she was at home, there should be a rule we’re [viz. where] people aren’t allowed to wear night gowns in cinemas” [my emph.].
The Cineworld Cinema’s audiences: families, their children, and others
It is of importance to note that [apart from a certain variation in the “income bracket” defining cinema customers, cf. above] the type of audiences that have been frequenting the Boleyn Cinema are just about the same as those frequenting Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema – here too, it is the family unit [and whoever relates to it, including very small children] that constitutes the basic core of audiences. In that sense, at least, the social functionality of the two theatres has been more or less the same, with the one venue complementing the other. The predominance of the Asian family and its children as the core of Cineworld audiences may be supported by considering the patron comments presented below.
An apparently irregular Cineworld patron who signs as Samby F., and recording his comment five years ago, writes as follows: “… and [I] thought I’d take mum to watch a movie [there]”. Yet another patron, by the name of Zahid Amin, and also writing five years ago, makes the following observation about Ilford’s Cineworld: “What a dump, crying babies (how can you allow babies in a cinema?)…” As shall be further observed below, the Cineworld would simply allow its Asian patrons to watch Bollywood movies as a family together with their children, whatever the age of the latter and whatever the formal age rating of the movie.
Writing three years ago, a patron identifying himself/herself as Bluecat Redcat, writes: “I took my daughter and son yesterday at screen number 2” so that they watch a particular movie.
Cineworld patron Naat He Naat, writing two years ago, informs us as follows: “It’s always pleasant to watch movies here as I always come with my family and family friends”.
The patron comments that follow were all made exactly one year ago:
- In describing Ilford’s Cineworld venue, patron Kailash Solanki puts it succinctly as follows: “Family friendly place” [my emph.].
- Patron Rajendhiran Vallathan informs us that, together with his family, he had gone to the Cineworld venue so as to watch a particular Tamil movie – he writes: “We were watching… [the movie] with our family in SCREEN 3 Cineworld”.
- An apparently non-regular customer of the Ilford Cineworld branch was struck by the fact that there were children in the theatre watching a movie not deemed suitable for their age, something which would in any case be – and as has been mentioned – a regular occurrence for both the Boleyn and the Cineworld cinemas. Signing his comment as Synical, he/she writes: “Been twice and both times had little kids under the film age in the screen…”
- A patron who signs as Amy Amy also expresses surprise at the fact that underaged children had been present in the Cineworld theatre when she had gone to watch a particular movie starring Kangana Ranaut [this actress shall be referred to further below] – Amy writes: “OMG are under-aged [sic] kids allowed in to watch films too?”
- A regular Cineworld patron by the name of Tofur Ahmed is highly appreciative of the fact that the cinema’s staff is always tolerant of his young son’s behaviour within the theatre. Tofur Ahmed writes as follows [albeit in highly problematic English]: “Lovely people my son everyday time make trouble for them still they say nothing respact [sic] the stuff [sic] from bottom of heart”.
- Patron Ranjan Rao also focuses on the presence of children within the Cineworld venue, and, very interestingly, compares that situation to what typically happens in India’s cinemas as opposed to UK cinemas frequented by non-settlers – this is what he writes: “[The Cineworld Cinema is] overall reasonable, but sometimes families with kids come. If you’re from India you might be used to it, but most British [viz. White Britons] are not used to it” [my emph.].
The following comments were recorded eleven months ago:
- Patron Ravinder Kaur writes: “Came with my nieces and nephews…”
- The case of a patron who signs as Mad Poo, and who is definitely not a local, seems rather exceptional. On the one hand, the patron’s comment confirms that Asian adults do wish to take their children along with them so as to watch a Bollywood movie at a place such as Ilford’s Cineworld. On the other hand, we here have at least one case where the cinema’s management actually refused entry to a young child – yet still, Poo himself explains that this has been highly unusual in his experience with Cineworld. In what is rather faulty language, the patron describes what happened on arrival at the venue, following an hour’s trip so as to get there: “… and then they say we are to my son is too young to watch even though we have been here before and watched another 15 [movies]”.
- A patron who signs his/her comment as With Opinion, writes as follows: “You’ll have babies screaming in the middle of the movie… Children allowed when it’s not age appropriate”.
The following comment was recorded ten months ago by a patron named Zack Lala: “One of the best place[s] for my kids. Must visit once a month for kids”.
Writing eight months ago, patron Sam Red notes: “Good place to have an evening out with the family”.
Finally, and putting the matter in a nutshell four months ago, patron Muhammad Khan simply describes cinemagoing at Ilford’s Cineworld as “Family Entertainment”.
Audience behaviour within the Cineworld theatres
We have observed above that Ilford’s Cineworld venue is characterized by a type of “atmosphere” that one may call “familial” or “homely”, it being created by the regular presence of Asian families and their children. This “atmosphere” may be said to be enlivened by a very specific type of behaviour typical of the Asian “cultural clusters” that have settled in the region of East Ham. To capture elements of such behaviour within the theatres of Ilford’s Cineworld, we shall again have to make use of patron comments [it goes without saying that none of what shall be recorded below is done in any judgmental spirit – and in any case we shall need to avoid methodological approaches of the type recommended by the likes of a Shakuntala Banaji, op. cit.].
Patron Samby F., recording his comment five years ago, has this to say about Cineworld’s regulars as a whole: “… crowd is a mix of horrible people, really horrible people and some decent folk…” Also writing five years ago, patron Vaibhav Sharma seems to share sentiments more or less similar to those of Samby F. when he tells us that “The crowd is… not very good”. Obviously, both of these comments are highly subjective reactions and we merely present them for the record, without drawing whatever conclusions. We should also add that both comments come from persons who are not Cineworld regulars.
The following three comments were recorded four years ago:
- In contrast to the commentators mentioned above, patron Omer Habib simply writes of a “Good crowd” frequenting the cinema, and which makes him feel “comfortable”. Habib is a regular of Ilford’s Cineworld and definitely a local of the area – this is perhaps why he can feel the way he does about Cineworld’s usual audiences, he being part of them.
- A patron by the name of Andrew Richardson – who, judging by the name, is most probably not a member of the Asian community – gives us some idea of the type of boisterous behaviour typical of Ilford’s Cineworld audiences. He writes: “… 90% of the customer base will talk throughout your whole movie, or make phone calls”.
- The final comment made four years ago is especially revealing as regards the highly boisterous – described even as “riotous” – behaviour of Cineworld’s Asian audiences. This is what patron M. Muttalib [who is most probably an “outsider”] has to say: “Avoid [the cinema] if you value your sanity. The locals are predominantly impertinent in the extreme. This is a smelly, dirty and riotous cinema. People talk throughout the movie on mass [viz. en masse] and there are always a few that like to make mobile phone calls during the film. A significant minority like to smuggle in hot smelly food and make a mess whilst consuming it. There are also people who bring babies into the cinema and then get annoyed when their babies cry from the loud sound levels of the speakers! Most regular users of this cinema seem to be very ill mannered, excessively loud and have a complete disregard for everyone else. You have been warned”. Again, such commentary constitutes a series of subjective impressions – both the commentary itself and the possible reality of what is being described have to be respected as invaluable specimens of the real, everyday life composing UK’s “cultural clusters”, and people’s impressions of such life.
The next two comments were recorded three years ago:
- A local patron who identifies himself/herself as Trooper ThatsAll describes what happens in the Cineworld venue when he visits it for its morning shows over weekends – we read: “I normally visit at weekend mornings, it’s often empty, however, what seems to happen is that other showings end and the patrons from those showings come in with their kids and fill up the front rows, noisy and running up and down”. This patron also adds, inter alia, the following as regards patron usage of the venue’s lavatory facilities: “… a recent refurbish [sic] of the toilets was done, but its [sic] still smells of piss constantly, its [sic] seems that the patrons don’t know how to use a toilet”.
- Patron Tahir Mohamed describes staff and audience behaviour at the cinema as follows: “Staff walking through movie, opening doors, kids running around from the start till end. All in all, money waste!”
The following three comments were made two years ago:
- A patron by the name of Charlene Whittington – who most probably is not a member of the Asian community, and whose presence in the screening of a Bollywood movie must definitely be seen as unusual – describes the behaviour of teenagers at the Cineworld venue. Her comment confirms, firstly, the presence of that particular age group in theatres screening Bollywood movies [this issue will be dealt with further below]; secondly, the presence of underaged audiences in theatre screenings. This is what she writes: “There were clearly teenagers in a[n] 18+ film as they were laughing and flashing their camera[s] during the film and generally very childish. I wasn’t asked for ID and I look very young for my age so they probably weren’t asked either…”
- A patron who signs as Vlad Vld also refers, inter alia, to the presence of teenagers in the cinema – he writes: “… peoples bringing their crying kids at the movies… uneducated teenagers with no common sense, spitting, shouting, fighting… laughing and using their mobile phones… it’s just a matter of time before I snap and punch a kid…”
- Finally, patron S. Kalmari writes: “I’d never visit here for Bollywood movies… the staff won’t care what’s happening in the cinema… some customers recording the movies on their phones and some talking loudly on their mobiles and some snoring too!!! What the heck that staff id [sic] doing??? Worst experience ever had… I had to tell off a women [sic] talking on mobile twice and walked off in the middle of the film…”
All comments that follow below were recorded one year ago:
- The patron signing as Synical, who has informed us that the Cineworld venue is often frequented by underaged audiences [cf. above], describes behaviour within the cinema as follows: “[children are] making noise and kicking my chair, people messing about with their phones distracting you from the movie, etc. Staff were friendly but they need to be stricter and more serious”.
- The patron who identifies himself/herself as The Londoners Story feels that it is especially the locals of the area that are problematic in their behaviour within the Cineworld cinema – asserting that it is they who lack civility, this patron describes their conduct as follows: “The only issue is the local people who come to see the movie and start talking to each other, using their phones, taking phone calls, playing Candy Crush [the well-known video game] while the movie is on. Sadly they have no respect for other people around…”
- Patron Trina Prakash – who is not a regular – describes her own experience at the Cineworld venue as follows: “Unfortunately, the experience was terrible. The other people attending the cinema talked all the way through the movie, somebody even put on a second movie or show for their child on an iPad or something (despite this not being a child viewing). It made me decide to never attend here again”. We should note here Prakash’s reference to “the other people” – it seems to suggest that Cineworld audiences may be said to be divided between, on the one hand, a relatively compact category of people comprising the regular locals and, on the other hand, those “outsiders” who choose to visit the cinema so as to watch some particular movie. While the former enjoy the “familial” and/or “homely atmosphere” within the theatre [which is naturally of their own creation], the latter feel a certain alienation of varying degrees of intensity.
- Patron Nicky Singh makes a list of the different types of experiences she has had while at the Cineworld venue – the list includes the following points: “I have had… People kick my seat… Tiny babies cry throughout the whole movie… People have full blown conversations while the movie is on… Feet rested up near my arm or head… A rat nearly jumped up on me… [etc.]”.
- A patron who simply identifies herself as Leanne writes as follows: “… the audiences are usually good, but screaming kids and babies can ruin the experience completely”.
- Patron Mohammed Akram simply observes: “There’s always troublemakers there”.
- Patron Lisun Hassan has a rather negative opinion about Cineworld regulars – she feels that “People are not friendly”.
- Patron Jai Prakash, who has already told us that Cineworld patrons behave as if “they are watching movie at home” [cf. above], goes on to describe his impressions as follows: “… Some people don’t have common manners and sense to don’t know how to be seated in cinema mall… Today one idiot girl keep hitting [the back side of my seat] while watching [a Bollywood movie]”.
The final comment, made eleven months ago by the patron who signs as With Opinion – and who has also written of the presence of screaming babies and underaged children within the cinema [cf. above] – further describes his/her impressions as follows: “Worst cinema to watch a good movie in… People texting and recording [the film they are busy watching]”.
The Cineworld Cinema – a venue primarily for the locals of the East Ham/Ilford region
Much of what has been recorded and discussed above shows quite clearly that Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema – and exactly as in the case of East Ham’s Boleyn Cinema – is a venue functioning primarily for the locals of the region. In discussing patron sentiments on the types of movies screened, we saw how the Cineworld venue has functioned as a “hideout” for locals wishing to enjoy their Bollywood movies. In discussing the “familial atmosphere” and the prevalence of Asian families within Ilford’s Cineworld theatres, it was quite obvious that audiences were composed of people residing in the neighbourhoods of the region circumscribing the cinema. Finally, in our examination of the typical behaviour of audiences within the theatres of the Cineworld venue, we saw that those responsible for such type of behaviour would usually constitute a compact group of regular locals [and which stood in some contradistinction to the behaviour of “outsiders”]. We shall here further present a number of patron comments, made through the years, which come to verify that Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema – and despite the fact that this is a multiplex chain cinema – has mainly functioned as a cultural hub for the locals constituting the locality’s “cultural clusters”.
One representative sample is a comment recorded five years ago and made by patron Mahesh Kannan, who writes: “I am a regular user of Cineworld, Ilford as I stay close by and see all language movies”.
The following two comments were made four years ago:
- Patron Vinit Sharma writes with respect to Ilford’s Cineworld venue: “Just walking distance from home and good for Bollywood movies”.
- Patron Omer Habib tells us that “It’s a nice comfortable place… Near to my home”.
The following two comments were recorded two years ago:
- Patron Abhijit Pathak informs us as follows about Cineworld: “Close for the ppl [viz. people] of Ilford and vicinity”.
- Patron Sujeendran Loganathan points to the relatively high cost of the multiplex’s ticket prices but nonetheless expresses an attachment to the cinema as would a local – as he writes: “It’s my local cinema… But expansive [sic]”.
The following three comments were recorded exactly one year ago:
- Patron Mohammad Shakeel tells us that the majority of Cineworld patrons are locals, these being “Mostly Asian customers”.
- The patron who identifies himself/herself as The Londoners Story asserts, albeit somewhat indirectly, that it is “the local people” who constitute the basic audience of Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema.
- Finally, patron Kailash Solanki simply tells us that Ilford’s Cineworld is “My favourite local cinema”.
The Cineworld Cinema – its non-local patrons
Having emphasized that even a multiplex chain such as the Cineworld Cinema can still function – and has in fact primarily functioned – as a neighbourhood hub for local cinemagoers, we may nonetheless also state that some of the venue’s patrons have been non-locals. This category of audience would normally be people who would wish to watch a specific Bollywood movie but who had no access to it in their area of residence.
Samples of comments suggesting the presence of non-local “outsiders” at the Cineworld Cinema include the following:
A patron who identifies himself/herself as Min. A., records the following comment four years ago: “Having read most of the reviews here [viz. Google Reviews] I was worried about my Cinema trip to Ilford (all the way from Cockfosters) to see the 1740hrs screening of Bajirao Mastani yesterday”. Together with his/her niece, this patron had travelled almost fifteen miles from the north London suburb of Cockfosters [a rather “leafy” suburb with about 13.5% of its locals being Asians] so as to watch a particular Indian Hindi-language movie [more shall be said of this movie below]. Also writing four years ago, patron Mayouran Jeyakumar – himself a local – informs us that Ilford’s Cineworld is rather easily accessible for non-locals wishing to visit the cinema – as he writes: “… location is perfect to get there by bus or train as well”.
A comment recorded two years ago by Gurmeet Kaur Bains reads as follows: “Not my local, came to this cinema couple of times as it was playing Bollywood/Punjabi movies. Has the Punjabi variety with timing options”. By “timing options”, of course, Bains wishes to state that Punjabi movies are screened in specific time slots as announced by the cinema management. The patron who signs as Aamar Nath, and who also recorded his comment two years ago, states: “Me and my wife enjoyed entire one year of our stay in London with Cineworld”. Here, of course, we have a case of non-local patrons who are in fact residents of India – yet still, the couple would be Cineworld regulars throughout their stay in the UK [the venue must have reminded them positively of their homeland].
The patron who signs his comment as Mad Poo, and who wrote eleven months ago, is yet another example of a non-local visitor of Cineworld. Quite irritated with his experience, he writes: “This place is so bad we travelled 1 hour to get hear [viz. here]”.
Finally, and writing eight months ago, patron Zarin Ali has been quoted [cf. above] as saying that whenever her closest Cineworld branch does not show a particular Bollywood movie, it is to Ilford that she travels so as to watch it.
The Cineworld Cinema – some general observations on the number of patrons it has usually attracted
A patron by the name of Vagish Vela, who writes seven years ago, tells us that many people visit Ilford’s Cineworld venue when Tamil movies are exhibited – this is what he says: “When you go to watch Tamil movies, you have to queue…”
On the other hand, it seems that it is not only Tamil-language films that draw long queues at the Cineworld venue. The patron who signs as Trooper ThatsAll, and who is writing three years ago, speaks more generally of what usually happens outside the venue whichever be the Bollywood movie that is being screened – as he/she observes: “… long lines waiting to be served”.
Writing two years ago, patron Subhendu Mukherjee, who has already been quoted [cf. above] as saying that she “loves” the Cineworld venue because it screens many Bollywood movies, nonetheless warns potential customers as follows: “But very busy one [viz. the venue]. Better to book your seat on line”.
Patron Ravinder Kaur, who writes eleven months ago, describes one of his visits to Cineworld as follows: “… was too busy with long q[ueue], need extra staff to run on busy days”.
Finally, and commenting exactly seven months ago, patron Gowhar Shaikh writes of a “Packed cinema”.
The Cineworld Cinema – the condition of its premises and the quality of its operation
The condition of Cineworld’s premises at Ilford has already been alluded to – as in the case of the Boleyn Cinema, far too many patrons have expressed a variety of negative opinions on the matter while nonetheless remaining loyal patrons for reasons already discussed [cf., for instance, the commentary recorded by patron Tanzirul Hasan above]. What follows is a series of patron comments that allow us to take a closer look at the quality of operation of a typical UK multiplex venue serving primarily Asian locals of its area. We shall let the comments speak for themselves – these are highly subjective observations that nonetheless express a reality as “lived” by locals. All of what is said is meant to describe a “lifeworld” that is to be respected as such by whichever social observer [and thereby excluding whatever derogatory implications].
It would be interesting to begin this general review of patron comments on the condition and/or operation of Ilford’s Cineworld premises by presenting the impressions of patron Jessen R., who tells us how he remembers the venue when it first opened in 2002 [while alluding to the venue’s relative degeneration thereafter]. This is what he writes six years ago: “Far from what it once was. I remember when this cinema opened (even though I must’ve been about 7) and it was such a great experience… The staff were great, the prices were very cheap, and they gave us chocolate frogs as part of the film experience”. But, then, Jessen R. continues as follows: “13 years later… the staff are nowhere as helpful, and now it just feels like the people working there are robots”. It could be said that this particular comment [and especially its reference to “robots”] seems to suggest that the Cineworld Cinema must have lost its more “homely atmosphere” through the years – while having to respect the sentiments of Jessen R., we should nonetheless say that the vast majority of patron comments do not really bear him out [cf. our notes above with respect to the “atmosphere” that has prevailed within the venue; and cf. our notes above regarding typical audience behaviour]. While the patron’s comments on the theatre’s operation across time remain valuable, they must be viewed with a certain skepticism, given what must be a tinge of patron nostalgia for things past as expressed therein.
Writing five years ago, patron Zahid Amin enumerates a list of complaints regarding the cinema’s condition and operation – he writes: “… filthy toilets, movies start late, forget [sic] to turn off the lights when the movie starts. No sound insulation, you can hear the movie next door. Managers are incompetent, utterly useless”.
The patron who signs as Min. A., and who writes four years ago, had a rather more agreeable experience on visiting Ilford’s Cineworld venue – we read: “My niece and I were pleasantly surprised!!! We had a meal at Sahan, the lovely Turkish restaurant in the same building… We did not encounter any of the negatives in the [Google] reviews…” Patron Sugandha Singh, also writing four years ago, similarly describes a fairly positive experience at the venue albeit with one interesting objection: “Good but doesn’t serve alcohol may be [sic] because of the area”. Singh is most probably referring to the cinema’s response to the heavy presence of Muslims in the area, who of course abstain from the consumption of alcohol. Yet another patron who writes four years ago is Sijo Jacob [and who has also been a patron of the Boleyn Cinema, cf. above] – he makes the following observation with respect to the seating of the Cineworld venue: “… VIP seats I think are a waste of money. The only difference is that the seats are made of leather”.
What follows is a list of patron comments all made three years ago:
- The patron who signs as Trooper ThatsAll feels an attachment to the Cineworld venue, seeing it as his own “local” cinema [cf. our notes above regarding the Cineworld Cinema as being primarily for locals] – and yet, he feels that [what he views as] the venue’s monopolistic position has allowed its operation to fall below acceptable standards [this patron, apparently, ignores the existence of the Boleyn Cinema in the same region]. Trooper ThatsAll writes of the Cineworld Cinema as follows: “It’s local to me – needs competition to keep them on their game”. His/her negative observations are presented in a general manner as follows: “The real issue is it’s run down, deliberate I don’t know, the managers seem not to care…” And he/she continues more specifically: “On several visits the sound in screen 8 and screen 2 had sound issues. They did tell the patrons before the showing on one screen, the other screening only appeared half way through”.
- Patron Tahir Mohamed also refers to the problematic sound system of the Cineworld Cinema – he writes: “Worst experience ever! The sound was terrible. Sometimes very loud and then few speaker[s] shut. Bass was gone”.
- The patron who signs as Bluecat Redcat describes a rather dramatic set of circumstances pertaining to the condition of the cinema’s premises – this is what he/she writes on taking his/her children to watch a movie there: “My daughter has caught a very bad rash on her body. I shall take her to see a GP and put a complaint through. I had read other [Google] reviews of there being bugs [in the cinema theatre] and I thought we will be ok how wrong I was. I made a very big mistake. I shall be formally complaining as this is very unaeccaptable [sic] low standards for a place where kids come to enjoy. The cinema is dirty…”
- Patron Biju Raj confirms the particular negative experience recorded by Bluecat Redcat – we read: “Yesterday I have been to a movie [at Cineworld] and there were too many bed bugs in the seats. And they bit my son’s hand which started to itch and swell. This is not good and not safe for anyone and God knows how many bugs entered my house now. Would request pet [viz. pest] service to investigate and take appropriate action to avoid this situation in future”.
- A patron by the name of Colin Holder – who is most probably not an Asian – also makes a comment somewhat confirming what has been recorded by both Bluecat Redcat and Biju Raj – he writes: “They [the managers of the Cineworld Cinema] need a health warning”.
- The final comment recorded three years ago is made by patron Amirul Hussain – what he writes tells us that the Cineworld canteen sells snacks that reflect at least some of the eating habits prevailing amongst the “cultural clusters” of the area [cf. Paper 4b with respect to ethnic-based eating habits in the region of East Ham]. Hussain writes: “Best thing about it [viz. the cinema] is they sell halal hot dogs”. This observation goes hand-in-hand with that of Sugandha Singh’s [cf. above], which informs us that Ilford’s Cineworld does not serve alcohol “because of the area”.
The comments that follow were recorded two years ago:
- Patron Talha Fazlani contrasts the present condition of the Cineworld premises to that of the past – he writes: “Used to look good 10+ years ago, but now it just looks dated and small…”
- Patron Charlene Whittington confirms Talha Fazlani’s observation when she writes: “… the cinema hasn’t been updated in probably 10 years very smelly toilets as well”. We should nonetheless note that such comments do not take into account the renovation that the Cineworld venue was to finally undergo [to be briefly dealt with further below].
- The patron who signs as Vlad Vld writes as follows: “I’ve been couple of times [to the cinema] but it’s getting worse… less staff… more mess… the sound was too loud at my last movie…”
- Patron Kunal Godbole records his own observations as follows: “… the screen and size of theatre is not very big and the most disappointing part is they don’t turn off some lights completely while playing the movie. Think that’s a problem with all Cineworld screens and is a downer”. It is of some interest to note that Kunal Godbole’s complaint about both the size of the screen and of the venue itself is not limited to one of the eleven screens constituting the multiplex at Ilford – it is a general statement covering all of Cineworld’s venues [yet again, we need remember the ultimate subjectivity of all comments discussed here].
- Patron Susan Majrooh also raises issues regarding the hygienic conditions of the cinema, this time pertaining to the snacks served at the canteen – she writes: “… the nachos, popcorn and drinks gave us all diarrhea and nausea… 2nd day later now and still feel ill… The hygiene is hideous”.
- The final comment recorded two years ago is of major interest as it describes the operation of Ilford’s Cineworld in a manner that raises the issue of “racism” as allegedly practiced within the venue, and which is supposed to be characteristic of “non-White” – or what are referred to as “immigrant” – areas within which a cinema is located. There are two points we need to make before presenting this rather controversial comment: Firstly, and precisely because the issue is so highly controversial, we cannot vouch for the accuracy of what is being said; secondly, it seems that this “racial” friction within the cinema must have taken place between a Hindu patron and a member of staff of Arab origin – the Hindu patron had felt somewhat estranged within the cinema, which is of course odd, given that the vast majority of Cineworld patrons are of Asian origin. In any case, this is what this definitely irregular patron, who signs as Girish, reports: “When I went to watch ‘Ant-man’ on 14.08.2018… the ticket checker named ‘Hassan’ I think, didn’t show eye contact because he was busy chatting with a female colleague. He just checked the ticket and continued chatting to the female colleague and without any eye contact or may be some nice words like ‘enjoy your movie’ etc. handed me the ticket. I felt a bit unwelcomed to be honest. Unfortunately, immigrant areas of the UK seem to have this issue mostly. I’ve never experienced this sort of treatment in Belfast Odeon or South Woodford Odeon. Almost all employees there were White, well behaved, well mannered, warm, smiley, welcoming, chatty etc.” [my emph.]. This comment, albeit of major interest given the possible implications of the observations made by the commentator, certainly raises a variety of questions that must remain open – we shall not attempt to delve into any of these at this point [our interest here is in any case focused on the condition and operation of Cineworld’s premises].
The comments that follow were recorded one year ago:
- Patron Ranjan Rao makes a comment which is of some significance as it compares an aspect of the Cineworld premises with that of cinemas in India – he writes as follows with respect to the question of seating: “Seats [at the Cineworld Cinema] are better than in India but for similar price one can get far better seats”.
- In contrast to some of the commentary presented above, Patron Subhrojit Shome writes as follows about Ilford’s Cineworld: “A multiplex with good sound systems located centrally in Ilford. It has 11 screens and the screen size is decent enough for a good movie experience”. As with other more positive commentary about the condition and operation of Cineworld’s premises, Shome’s observations may have been made following a certain renovation of the venue – on the other hand, this is not always reflected in commentaries recorded one year ago.
- Patron Piraveen Yasasvin records his own experiences at Cineworld as follows: “We went to watch… [a particular Bollywood film] 2 days ago and after 20 mins of film the sound was not working properly and they change the screen for us from screen 3 to 8. We had to wait 30 mins and watch the movie from the start. We changed screen and start to watch the movie and after the interval the sound was not working again!!”
- Nicky Singh simply informs us that the Cineworld’s “lifts are out of service most of the time…”
- Patron Amy Amy comes up with an especially scathing commentary – these are her impressions: “But I wish I had gone to another cinema! Dirty, trashy looking place (reminded me of the midget I dated from Ilford). Outside clean, inside dirty! Staff are polite but it felt like I’m in the supermarket while buying the ticket and snacks”.
- A patron who signs as Manlykrio makes the following, generally negative, observations: “It’s alright when u go in nice staff service but when u go in to watch your film it is terrible they don’t clean it properly their [sic] was a coke on my seat it was disgusting and I saw a mouse run to one side of the other [sic]…”
- As in the case of Manlykrio [but as also in the case of commentators such as Nicky Singh, cf. above, in the context of discussing audience behaviour within the Cineworld Cinema], a patron who signs as Panda Fitness points to the existence of rodents within the cinema’s theatres – he/she writes as follows: “Cleanliness of cinema could really be improved, I have heard rats squeaking multiple times during movies…”
- The question of hygiene is yet again brought up by a patron who identifies himself/herself as Crkria – the patron complains as follows: “… food hygiene poor/food poison every time I come here…” It is even suggested, rather perniciously, that the “staff have toxic breath”.
- While patron Crkria complains vehemently about the toxicity of snacks served at the Cineworld venue, it should also be pointed out that patrons have the right to bring their own snacks in any of the theatre halls, something which would not have been permitted in the case of the Boleyn Cinema [cf. above, where it has been said that Boleyn staff would even go so far as to search a patron’s bag for food brought into the cinema “illegally”]. Patrons such as Panda Fitness [including the patron who signs as Leanne] inform us that the Cineworld Cinema would place no prohibitions whatsoever on the bringing of food from outside its premises – as Panda Fitness notes: “Plus side is they allow you to bring your own snacks”.
- The final comment recorded one year ago is of great interest as it yet again touches on the issue of “racist” practices purportedly practiced within the Cineworld Cinema – it therefore clearly relates to the observations made by patron Girish above, and should be read side by side with these, always keeping in mind the various open questions that are raised by such types of remarks. A patron who signs as M.M. writes the following: “Awful experience. Went to watch a film but then one of the members of staff decided it would be funny to use a reference from Karate Kid because of my race as an Asian (East Asian). Funny how people in that area go on about ‘inclusion & diversity’ yet it is your racist staff who happens to be South Asian feels the need to make fun of other people’s races? Don’t be complain [sic] about racism when it happens to you. Will I return back to this cinema? NEVER. THANKS, next” [my emph.].
The patron who signs as Mad Poo, writing eleven months ago, records the following impressions: “Their service is bad and their food quality is appalling”.
Ten months ago, irregular patron Gabriel Radulescu writes: “One of the dirtiest and smelliest toilets seen so far… The cinema wasn’t the cleanest either with a lot of trash on the floors”.
A comment also recorded ten months ago – this time by a patron who signs as Anonymous – is highly critical of a particular member of staff who happens to be of Asian origin. The comment reads as follows: “Asian worker with scarf claims she’s [the] supervisor at Cineworld, very poor customer service and judgmental. Very prideful and arrogant…”
Finally, for a very regular local patron such as Charulatha Sanmathi, who records her comment nine months ago, Ilford’s Cineworld is the theatre for which she reserves a certain loyalty – and so she writes: “It’s a great place with 11 screens”. That does not mean, however, that she cannot be critical of its daily operation – she notes a number of drawbacks that are somewhat reminiscent of the manner in which the Boleyn Cinema has itself operated: “The only put off in the movies is that the movie doesn’t start at the time [sic] and delays for at least 15 minutes. The auditorium space is smaller and fits only about 100 people… The screen size is smaller than [the] average theatre”.
The renovation of the Cineworld Cinema
We know that the Ilford branch of the Cineworld chain would undergo a full renovation by 2018 [cf. https://www.gwcontracting.co.uk/cineworld-ilford]. As noted above, the Boleyn Cinema had undergone its own renovation in 2014-2015. We shall here merely present two patron comments on the renovation of the Ilford Cineworld venue.
Local patron Sujeendran Loganathan, writing two years ago, informs us as follows: “They just refurbished it… after 15 years…”
A very regular patron of Ilford’s Cineworld is someone who identifies himself/herself as Sumjim – he/she simply tells us that “after the renovation it looks good”.
The Ilford Cineworld compared to “Cineworld standards” generally
Patron Vaibhav Sharma, who records his comment five years ago, tells us that Ilford’s Cineworld is not his best choice of cinema venue in comparison to other Cineworld theatres. He writes that the Ilford venue is “Good for movie, [but] I personally prefer to go to Cineworld 02” [with respect to the latter venue, cf. above]. One of the many reasons that Vaibhav Sharma would not choose the Ilford venue as his best choice amongst Cineworld branches is the behaviour of its staff – he feels that “The [Ilford] staff had been very rude in the past”.
Writing four years ago, patron Sagar Kharel seems to be an admirer of all Cineworld chain cinemas. Like Vaibhav Sharma, however, he is dissatisfied with the members of staff at the Ilford branch. He writes as follows: “Cineworld is my favourite cinema. They have world class facilities and great customer service. I always visit to [sic] their 02 branch. But today I made a mistake of visiting Ilford branch. Full of uncivilized staffs [sic] who have no idea about customer service. The manager was even worse”.
A patron who signs as Min Puc, writing three years ago, simply informs us that the Ilford branch is the “Worst Cineworld cinema in London!!!”
Patron Talha Fazlani, who writes two years ago, has informed us that Ilford’s theatre looks “dated” and “small” [cf. above] – he says this is “especially [so] when compared to Vue Westfield Stratford” [as regards this cinema, cf. above].
The following comments were recorded exactly one year ago:
- A patron by the name of Ferdin A. Napoleon, and who does not seem to belong to the Asian community, expresses his sentiments about the Ilford branch very bluntly as follows: “Worst Cineworld…”
- Patron Imran Haq also compares the Ilford branch to other Cineworld theatres rather unfavourably – he writes that it is “A bit dated compared to a lot of Cineworld sites…”
- The patron who signs as Synical compares the Ilford venue with other Cineworld venues as negatively as do others – he/she writes: “Not nearly as good as their other branches like Leicester Square or 02 or Wandsworth”.
- The patron who identifies himself/herself as Iceze notes as follows regarding the Ilford branch: “Seating ok, although not as good as some other Cineworlds”.
Finally, writing nine months ago, a patron who signs as Manu Grill, observes the following: “Washrooms cleanliness not as per Cineworld standards”.
The Cineworld Cinema – ticket prices
We have already quoted Jessen R. [cf. above], who informs us that when Ilford’s Cineworld first opened its doors to the local community by May 2002, its “prices were very cheap”. Recording his comment six years ago, he goes on to state that “13 years later and the prices have shot up”. He explains: “A standard adult ticket on the weekend is now £10 and £7 for a child. Yes ok it’s not too much, but for a family, an odd £35 for 90 minutes of fun is pushing it maybe?” Parenthetically, we should note here that, although Jessen R.’s figures may be accurate for the time that he is writing, we should nonetheless keep in mind the ticket prices as recorded above and based on https://www.cineworld.co.uk – yet still, the point he makes as regards the sum of money a family is obliged to spend over the weekend at Cineworld remains important, and it underlines the fact that the Ilford theatre has been more of the upmarket type in contrast to the Boleyn Cinema [cf. above]. Jessen R. adds further: “But even the prices of their popcorn and snacks are pretty crazy too, really pushing their ‘no food from outside’ rule to be severely tested by those looking to save a little” [we should also point out here that, at least according to some patrons commenting one year ago – such as the patron who signs as Panda Fitness, cf. above – the rule prohibiting the bringing of food from outside the cinema would no longer apply].
Patron Tarlock Singh, who went to Ilford’s Cineworld to watch a particular Bollywood movie of his choice, made the following comment three years ago: “And my cinema ticket was over £11.00 what a joke”.
The following comments were recorded one year ago:
- Patron Subhrojit Shome gives us an idea of the sum of money one would have to spend on snacks sold at Ilford’s Cineworld – he informs us that “A regular popcorn and a coke takes you back by £8”. Assuming that Shome visited the Ilford branch by himself, he would have paid a sum total of £19.00 to watch the movie of his choice [with the standard ticket price for adults at £11]. One may extrapolate the amount of money a patron would have to spend were he to have visited the Cineworld Cinema with his family and friends [though we should also note here that the cinema would offer ticket prices for the family as a unit at £20.00 – cf. above].
- The patron who signs as Leanne observes that “Prices (with food and drink) get a bit pricy, so I would recommend buying popcorn and snacks from a different place”.
- The patron who signs as Panda Fitness also informs us that “food is overpriced”.
Writing nine months ago, patron Charulatha Sanmathi tells us about the “Unlimited card” that the Cineworld Cinema would offer to locals, whereby they could watch whatever films they wished and for as many times as they wished throughout a particular period of time, so long as they paid a certain sum of money to join the category of a Cineworld “Unlimited member”. Sanmathi writes: “Cineworld also offers an unlimited card for watching unlimited movies all the year at £19 per month”. Patron Sunny Jutla, also writing nine months ago, further comments on the “Unlimited card” – she writes as follows: “… The price of the Cineworld unlimited card is becoming very expensive I’m afraid it may reach £22 by 2 years time”. As regards snacks, Jutla adds: “Popcorn and nachos are amazing but I feel the prices are crazy. I would suggest reducing the costs…”
Patron Alan Sounthararajah, who records his comment seven months ago, tells us that Ilford’s Cineworld is a “Bit pricey but good service”.
Finally, patron Shezaad Malik, writing four months ago, is of the impression that the Cineworld Cinema is “Too expensive”.
Thus far, our study of ethnic-based cinemagoing practices in the region of East Ham and its environs has above all attempted to present what we may refer to as the “hard data” describing the venues of the Boleyn Cinema and Ilford’s Cineworld Cinema. As we have seen, such “hard data” have been the merely subjective impressions recorded by the patrons of these two theatres. This, apparently, sounds paradoxical: how be it possible that subjectivity is here presented as “hard”, empirical objectivity? Our approach is based on the premise that people’s impressions, however prejudiced or contradictory these may be, constitute their own, “hard” reality of the things that circumscribe them. These impressions do not [and are not meant to] explain such reality – they simply tell us how people “live” it. This approach, however, would raise a central problem: how may one explain that which is described? Our response to this problem posits yet another paradox: we take it as a given that whatever attempts at an explanation of the “lived” reality of people can only but be biased, at least in the sense of being interpreted through the inevitable distortions of whatever theoretical – not to say political – lenses. In fact, one may go so far as to assert that it is the theoretical explanation of a “lived” reality that constitutes the “soft underbelly” of that type of research work – it is precisely here that the real, often naïve, subjectivity of the “academic” is to be located in such work.
To put this in a nutshell, we may simply say that people’s subjective impressions of things tell us more of reality [however piecemeal and contradictory] than does the supposed “objectivity” of theoretical contraptions that have in any case come and gone throughout the history of sociology. Now, keeping such important caveat in mind, we shall nonetheless attempt to “explain” the subjective impressions presented thus far through a critical review of some of the existing sociological studies around the phenomenon of Bollywood, as also through our own attempt to interpret this phenomenon by examining some of the content of movies produced by this genre. In the process, we shall not abstain from adding extra “empirical data” to our study of the Bollywood phenomenon. In the forthcoming Paper 4e, we shall therefore be presenting the following sections that conclude our study of cinemagoing practices in the region of East Ham [and cf. our introductory notes above, regarding the “work method” employed in this paper]:
- The function of Bollywood in the UK: a cultural bonding of ethnic “cultural clusters”
- An examination of a sample of Bollywood movies screened in the UK, and especially in the Boleyn and Cineworld venues
- The UK’s Muslim community and its relation to the Bollywood phenomenon
- The Bollywood phenomenon in the UK – other dimensions apart from cinemagoing practices [by way of an appendix]
[cf. forthcoming Paper 4e].